“I don’t think we have been dishonest,” he said.
While conceding his leadership had not been “perfect” he said he was “more determined than ever” to see the bank do the right thing by its customers and rejected the suggestion it had been “greedy”.
He said the vast majority of the bank’s 33,000 staff were trying to do right by their customers.
“They are not greedy people, they are people who want to do the best by customers,” he said.
NAB chairman and former Treasury secretary Ken Henry also responded to commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s comments by saying that he was “disappointed” the former High Court judge had formed the view that NAB had not learned lessons from the past.
The report singled out NAB for special criticism among the big four banks, with commissioner Hayne saying he was “not persuaded that NAB is willing to accept the necessary responsibility”.
The searing comments followed appearances by Mr Thorburn and Dr Henry in December, at which they were grilled over a scandal in which the bank took about $100 million in fees without providing service to customers in return.
Mr Thorburn, who had planned to take about a month of long service leave, in addition to annual leave over summer, earlier said he was instead coming back to work to lead the bank “personally and visibly”. He said commissioner Hayne’s comments suggested that NAB did not “know what the right thing to do is”.
“As the CEO, this is very hard to read, and does not reflect who I am or how I am leading, nor the change that is occurring inside our bank. While we have made mistakes, I believe there is a lot of evidence that we are making sustainable and serious change to once again regain the trust of all our customers,” he said in an announcement to the stock exchange on Tuesday morning.
Mr Thorburn said he was “proud to be a banker” and he was “more determined than ever to lead NAB with even greater urgency and intensity and show through our ongoing actions that we do what we say”.
“I have cancelled my planned long-service leave, aside from a personal family commitment next week.”
Dr Henry said the royal commission had “challenged NAB” and the bank welcomed this.
“In his final report, commissioner Hayne said I seemed unwilling to accept criticism of how the board had dealt with some of the issues raised by the commission. I am disappointed that the commissioner formed this view. I know that is not so. The board and I have reflected deeply on those and other issues and, as I have said previously, we take them very seriously.”
Clancy Yeates writes on business specialising in financial services. Clancy is based in our Sydney newsroom.