Five must-read books on the banking royal commission


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If you have a bank account, insurance policy, and financial planner or belong to a superannuation fund, you want to avoid the wrong ones.

One way is to understand the DNA of the companies behind these financial services. But up until last year, journalists had limited evidence of bad practices, extortionate fees and detrimental, inflexible terms.

Enter the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services, along with commissioner Kenneth Hayne and his legal team. They uncovered so much corruption, self-interest and excess that an estimated $10 billion compensation will be paid to back to customers.

books royal commission

Here are five terrific books that rake over the jaw dropping revelations of the royal commission and what they mean for you as an investor, super fund member and insurance policy holder. Read at least one of these compelling books - but I recommend more than one if you can - to see how your financial product provider fared. Each book is different in its approach.

What is most disturbing is that some of the worst offending financial institutions still have hundreds of thousands of customers who could be financially much better off shifting to lower fee, more transparent products. You could even find out if you are about to receive a windfall in the form of compensation.

These books on Australia's broken banking system are by the country's finest financial journalists who admit they never expected such gob smacking revelations. They would make ideal Father's Day presents. Typically they cover how the rot set in, the lies, the misleading marketing spin, corruption and they make a stab at where do we go from here.

Banking Bad by Adele Ferguson (ABC Books, RRP $34.99)

By the courageous journalist who, with the help of whistle-blowers, triggered the royal commission.

Ferguson traces the malpractice, misconduct and misinformation back over four decades. How the regulator - often in bed with the banks - wasn't on the side of the consumers and let us all down.

It was a perfect storm, emboldening ego driven financial groups to charge fees for no service, deny legitimate insurance claims and to have misleading, incorrect information on their websites for years. She recounts a colourful cast of bullies, thieves and crooks being rewarded extraordinary sums to rip off customers.

A Wunch of Bankers: A Year In The Hayne Royal Commission by Daniel Ziffer (RRP $32.99, Scribe)

Ziffer reported daily from the royal commission for ABC Television, recording what he describes as the 'tearful victims, blank-faced executives, hapless regulators and a couple of utter charlatans' who had their day in court.

Ziffer captures the persistent, unflappable questioning of Rowena Orr and Michael Hodge, often when they skewered their witnesses to expose their cover-ups. Ziffer tracks the year of the royal commission, revisiting the colourful highlights with his observations and analysis.

Money Spinners by Annelise Nielsen (Viking, RRP $32.99)

Political reporter and host on Sky News, Nielsen delves back into the past to uncover the history of financial advice in Australia, stemming from door-to-door insurance salesmen dispensing advice.

Nielsen looks at the scams and collapses leading up the royal commission. Often the bereft investors received little compensation for their losses and regulators failed to adequately prosecute the fraudsters.

She concentrates on how competition and lack of regulation led to a toxic culture in financial services. She reveals the shameful lies, spin and greedy fees charged by the largely self-regulated financial sector.

It's Your Money by Alan Kohler (Nero Books, RRP $34.99)

Kohler's book takes the lessons from the crisis in financial services and explains what it means for investors.

With 45 years of observing and commenting as a financial journalist and editor, the founder of the Constant Investor puts forward his own investment philosophy and advice.

The royal commission highlighted the many risks inherent in the financial system, and a large chunk of the book is Kohler's toolkit for avoiding these pitfalls, protecting your money and making it grow.

Kohler tells investors how to track down advice and draw up a strategy; and he explains superannuation, asset classes such as real estate, shares, alternative and ethical investments as well as managed funds.

The People Versus The Banks by Michael Roddan (Melbourne University Press, RRP $34.99)

Written by The Australian's journalist who covered the royal commission, Roddan has captured how damning the RC is for the financial sector by putting profits before its customers.

He outlines how banks rewarded appalling behaviour and assumed they are beyond the law.

Roddan's book outlines how the royal commission revealed the lies and dressed down the thieves. His narrative does live up to his description of the royal commission as "the best corporate blood sport in Australian history."

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.