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Should Westpac sack the $8m woman?

The Kiwi Westpac worker responsible for a blunder which cost the bank A$8.05m reckons she is about to be “managed out” of her job.

Her decimal point error led to customer Leo Gao getting a multi-million dollar overdraft facility. Gao transferred some of the money overseas and has since fled to China. His girlfriend, business partner and mother have also disappeared.

Surely Westpac would be in the right to let her go? After all, the mistake has proven hugely embarrassing, not to mention costly, for the bank.

Or would firing her be an overreaction to a simple and unintentional error for a woman who has, according to New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times, more than 30 years’ banking experience. The paper also quotes sources who say she might lose her house if sacked and would find it hard to get another job.

When should a mistake cost you your job? Let us know below.

Comments (13)

  1. It will be worse PR for Westpac if they get rid of her…after all the fat-cat banker stories out there, the public will have sympathy for her as a downtrodden small-time bank worker who made an honest mistake. flashy Traders have lost billions for banks – her error is insignificant. Look at all the money they’re set to lose on the kiwi tax-dodge too.

  2. Yes, she has cost the bank more money than she’ll ever make for it.

  3. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet. wasn’t this a couple of months ago?

  4. This issue has many facets. In the first place, someone made a significant mistake. In the second, someone else took advantage of said mistake to a very significant extent. However, everyone makes mistakes; not everyone chooses to take advantage of said mistake to the tune of millions of dollars. In truth, the issue at hand is such that a clerical error created an opportunity for someone to demonstrate themselves of low integrity. This woman made a mistake, but an overdraft facility is in every way a line of credit, and it is probably the client who disappeared with the funds who should bear the brunt of public malice.

    To address sink’s comment, this has nothing to do with comparison to ‘fat cat’ bankers or brash traders losing billions, and the comparison does not stand the test of empirical reality. Sink’s statement suggests that such individuals act with impunity and do not bear the consequences of their behavour. Those ‘flashy traders’ who have cost banks billions have seen their careers firmly buried six feet under ground. True ‘fat cat’ bankers are relatively few; most of prominent note in recent negative media reports are similarly grounded in the future opportunities.

  5. Westpac computer systems should have picked up this error but their systems are as old as the hills so what do you expect!!!..

  6. This lady is not a criminal, just because someone else took advantage of her mistake, she should not be punished for it…..instead perhaps the bank should instill tighter controls to minimise any future risk to their company, concurrently this would/should also help protect their employees from this kind of situation occuring again.

  7. I would have to question did this really all come down to one person? Was there no maker/checker functionality in place? If it is possible for one person in isolation to make such an error then the banks operational risk policy needs to be addressed. If there were levels of authorisation in place or some segregation of duties then more than one person has missed this so how can all the blame sit with one lady? I think more information is required before we can fairly comment.

    risky business Reply
  8. Is the lady the only person to approve the OD facility? If so the bank management is to be blamed more than the lady for flouting all norms of internal control.
    While I admit cost cutting is the order of the day the same should be administered smartly.

  9. Was there no system / authority process dedicated to drafting large funds? Alongside the worker that made the error, Westpac’s banking authority process is questionable. Sacking her wouldnt solve the problem as the proof is in the pudding – there is a process gap and until that is mitigated there will be errors like this one no matter how skilled the person is. Humans make mistakes.

  10. What about the fool who designed the system without any checking or verification?

  11. I agree with the comments above. There are checks and balances in place in banks. Surely the checking officer should also take some of the blame. In todays high paced baning industry where there are less employees doing more work this type of clerical error will continue to occur. The party the Bank should be chasing is the one who benefitted the most from this, their client. The employee should be admonished for their error but not penalised to the extent that they more lose their job and therefore potentially their home. Most Bnaks make a provision for bad debts and losses so it would seem that they expect to lose some funds throughout the course of the year.
    Give the worker a fair go.

  12. If an $8million transaction can be processed by one person with no other authorisation requirements or checks in place, you’d really have to wonder how secure their whole banking system is…
    how many staff could be perhaps moving funds around fraudulently?

    And from a banking point of view, would not there have been a corresponding debit to be processed with this credit for $8million…

  13. “Recently, I was asked if I going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him.” – Quote from Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM

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