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Profit surge for CommBank investors, but not for customers or workers

Skyrocketing interest rates have delivered Commonwealth Bank a record $10.2 billion annual profit, but while investors enjoy a sizeable dividend hike, many customers are being left behind.

Fresh figures compiled for The New Daily by RateCity show many Australians who have entrusted their earnings to Commonwealth Bank are still being shortchanged by sub-par savings rates.

Australia’s largest bank has only raised the rate on its popular online savings account by 2.15 percentage points, despite the RBA passing through 4 percentage points in rate hikes.

Its bonus saver account has risen by a comparatively generous 4.40 percentage points, but you need to jump through a few hoops to make that work – including increasing the balance monthly.

RateCity research director Sally Tindall said it’s a similar story with the other big banks too, with a “survival of the fittest” approach defined by complex account options and “reems of fine print”.

“The big banks have been playing a game of Duck, Duck, Goose when it comes to which savings accounts get a boost after an RBA hike, and which miss out,” Ms Tindall said.

“Many bonus saver customers have seen their interest rates rise by more than the RBA hikes, yet millions of customers with online saver accounts are on ongoing rates that are around half, if not almost a quarter of the current cash rate.”

Savers aren’t the only ones missing out as the Commonwealth Bank makes record profits, either.

‘A pay cut, in real terms’

The Finance Sector Union (FSU) has come out swinging at CBA’s executives for booking such a huge profit while holding out on paying their workers more.

FSU boss Julia Angrisano said an offer for a 12.7 per cent pay rise over three years is inadequate.

“Their proposed pay rise would be a pay cut in real terms, given inflation,” Ms Angrisano said.

“The finance industry would expect CBA to provide industry-leading wage increases given their industry-leading profits.”

Why bank profits soared

CBA won’t be the first big bank to record a massive annual profit – at least not if the billions posted at the half year are any indication.

Australia’s big banks have always been immensely profitable, but the recent spate of interest rate hikes have taken the rivers of gold to a whole new level, sparking CBA’s latest result.

Operating income shot up 13 per cent at CBA to $27 billion, and the net interest margin (a measure of how much the bank earns versus what it pays out in deposits) rose 17 percentage points.

It’s no wonder that happened given that the four percentage points of rate hikes passed on by CBA since May 2022 have added more than $1100 to monthly repayments on a typical $500,000, 25-year home loan.

Households have felt the pressure, with more than a million home owners now estimated to be in mortgage stress, according to the latest figures from Roy Morgan.

CBA chief executive Matt Comyn acknowledged on Wednesday that customers were doing it tough, but said many households have been resilient because of savings buffers and low unemployment.

“It has been an increasingly challenging period for our customers, dealing with rising cost-of-living pressures,” he said.

“Our balance sheet resilience allows us to support our customers and deliver sustainable returns for shareholders.”

Meanwhile, executives and investors have been duly rewarded for Commonwealth Bank’s record profit, with a handsome $2.40 a share dividend declared on Wednesday.

Mr Comyn received $10 million in total remuneration, including a hefty $1.1 million bonus.

Look beyond the big banks

Ms Tindall said Australians could look beyond the big banks for higher savings rates, with the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and NAB now far behind other companies.

“ING is now offering all adults ongoing rates of up to 5.25 per cent,” Ms Tindall said.

“However, to qualify for this rate customers have to deposit $1000 or more into a linked transaction account, make at least five purchases on that account, and increase their savings balance every single month to qualify.

“Take your nest egg shopping. But before you do, have a think about what terms and conditions you’ll be able to meet, and pick an account that suits your finances,” she said.

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