But the documents reveal concerns within the ACCC that it might be premature to conduct these interviews before the terms of the inquiry are set.
Another risk listed in the notes is: “It may seem premature until the final scope of the inquiry is known.”
Details of the inquiry first surfaced last month. The fresh review of competition in the banking industry will focus specifically on barriers to entry in retail banking in a sector dominated by the ”big four”: Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank.
The proposed inquiry has already received a chilly reception from the big banks and their smaller counterparts after a slew of inquiries into the sector in recent years and the banking royal commission.
The agenda items for Friday’s meeting show the ACCC is continuing to plan out its inquiry, noting the resistance in banking circles.
The ACCC agenda items also raise concerns in the industry that the banks have already been subject to several reviews in recent years.
“There have been media reports of inquiry fatigue from some banks. Consulting with them in advance of a direction may increase such fatigue, and some banks may be reluctant to engage before a direction is issued.”
However, the notes show the ACCC is planning to conduct its engagement strategy because “we consider it would be valuable to begin consultation with stakeholders about their perception of barriers to entry and expansion in retail banking before a direction is issued”.
The minutes note the strategy would assist the ACCC to quickly identify the key issues to be examined in the inquiry.
The October agenda items show the ACCC is planning to engage with a large number of banking industry participants in the inquiry. ACCC chairman Rodney Sims is set to meet senior executives of HSBC – a foreign bank actively seeking to grow in Australia – and Macquarie, which has a retail banking arm that has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Other ACCC representatives will meet senior executives from the nation’s largest regional lender, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank.
The ACCC is also considering approaching other financial sector companies for their views on competition in the sector.
The “highest priority” of these other groups include the largest second-tier bank ING, neobank Xinja and the Customer Owned Banking Association. “We intend to conduct these meetings in lieu of issuing an initial set of notices,” the minutes read.
The ACCC agenda items also list several other “potential targets” for the inquiry.
They include pay-as-you-go providers Afterpay and Zip Co, ME Bank, America’s Citigroup, which has a large presence in Australia, and neobanks 86 400 and Volt Bank.
Other potential targets for engagement are specialist suppliers including home lenders Tic:Toc, Pepper Group, La Trobe Financial and Cuscal.
A spokeswoman for the ACCC said: “We are currently discussing potential options for our next inquiry, including the various approaches we might take and which stakeholders we would seek to engage with.”
Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.
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