"I hope there is no customer who would say we have not been completely transparent to them about their rate."
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No one pays the 6.4% standard variable rate: Commonwealth Bank boss Ian Narev
Any Commonwealth Bank customer currently paying the Commonwealth Bank’s (or any major bank for that matter) standard variable rate of 6.4% is either an undesirable mortgage customer or a mug.
Such a conclusion can be drawn from comments made by Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev to journalist questions at the bank's recent interim results briefing.
Asked by Channel Nine finance journalist Ross Greenwood why the bank published a standard variable rate when any customer “worth their salt” can get a 100 basis point discount, Narev responded that the standard variable rate was simply a “transparent benchmark” against which every individual home lending rate is set.
“So everybody's rate is relative to the standard variable rate. And I do not think there is any customers, I hope there is no customer who would say we have not been completely transparent to them about their rate.
“We describe it by reference to the benchmark rate, and that is the rate we talk about in the market. So it is very important for us indeed in terms of the legal framework in which we operate, it is very important that customers understand exactly what they are paying and it is something we are very focused on,” said Narev.
January mortgage approval figures compiled by Mortgage Choice, which writes one in 10 home loans in Australia, show that 20% of borrowers took out a standard variable mortgage over the month – one in five.
Logic would dictate that given the dominance of the Commonwealth Bank in mortgage lending (it has 25% of the market), there would be a significant proportion of borrowers paying the bank's standard variable rate as would the other major banks.
ANZ has a standard variable rate of 6.40%, NAB is at 6.38% and Westpac the highest at 6.51%.
Fairfax economic commentator Michael Pascoe told David Koch on Sunrise last week that variable mortgage holders should not be paying an annual interest rate of more than 5.5%.
During the media conference, Narev added that over the past 18 months the Commonwealth Bank had passed on more reductions to the standard variable rate than any other major bank.
Explaining the need for a standard variable rate, Narev said it was the structure under which the banking system operates and that all banks price to it.
“But we are still very keen to get good customers in a way that creates a fair price for them and value to our shareholders and that is something we are very focused on,” he said.
Commonwealth Bank chief financial officer David Craig said the bank was “sort of locked into having a standard variable rate because it is the legal baseline upon which all existing mortgages are priced”.
While Narev would not be drawn on whether the Commonwealth Bank would cut variable rates out of cycle of the RBA, he did hint that it was a possibility.
“I am not allowed to say anything in terms of future prospects on pricing. What I could say is that it is a competitive market and if we reach a different environment in terms of both the volatility and the cost of funding that is conceivable, [then] yes."
For borrowers looking for a little more transparency outside of the major banks, these are the lowest advertised variable and fixed mortgage rates based on listings on mortgage comparison websites ratecity.com.au, Mozo.com.au, infochoice.com.au and homeloanfinder.com.au as of February 18:
Where the headline rate is the same, the lender with the lowest comparison rate gets preference.
Lowest variable rate offerings:
Lowest three-year fixed-rate offerings
*A comparison rate includes both the interest rate and the fees and charges relating to a loan, combined into a single percentage figure.
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