CBA closely monitoring property market, will adjust housing lending if needed

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn says the bank will keep a close eye on the strength in the housing market, and will change its lending practices if needed, as the lender kicks off its online annual general meeting.

In an address to shareholders this morning, Mr Comyn reiterated the lending giant’s upbeat view on the economy, but also noted the boom in the housing market that has caused regulators to tap on the brakes in mortgage lending.

Matt Comyn’s comments are a sign of the caution within Australia’s largest bank towards the housing boom – a concern shared by regulators.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Looking ahead, there’s cause for optimism,” Mr Comyn said in prepared remarks.

“The stimulus provided by our governments during lockdowns has been doing its job. Australians continue to accumulate more savings and many businesses are ready to take advantage of opportunities ahead,” he said.

“Housing activity is still strong. We are continuing to monitor this closely and adjust our lending settings appropriately.“

The comments are a sign of the caution within Australia’s largest bank towards the housing boom – a concern shared by regulators. The banking regulator took its first step to curb higher-risk lending last week, but at the time Mr Comyn signalled more intervention may be needed.

CBA chairman Catherine Livingstone said in her opening remarks that in the past year CBA had “evolved” its strategy to set out a more ambitious agenda for the bank focused on having leading digital experiences.

“This strategy includes the development of new digital products and services, which reimagine the way financial services can be tailored to individual customers; and an ambition to provide a leading digital experience,” Ms Livingstone said.

“The strategy also reflects our purpose and values, with an explicit intent for the Bank to play a leadership role in Australia’s economic recovery, by contributing to the nation’s transition to a digital, and environmentally sustainable, economy, thereby underpinning the country’s prosperity and social wellbeing.“

Of the board’s items on the agenda for today’s meeting, the only one attracting opposition among proxy advisers is a resolution to grant Mr Comyn’s $1.75 million in equity as part of his pay. ISS has recommended a “no” vote for that item.

There are also shareholder resolutions from activist group Market Forces on climate change that will be worth watching.

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