1st April 2015 – The latest survey of financial counsellors assessing how well banks are dealing with customers in financial hardship, Rank the Banks, has seen improvements across-the-board. The improvements were evident for the big four banks, the smaller banks and GE.
“We are really encouraged by the survey results,” said Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia. “They indicate just how far the banking industry has come in the past few years.”
Financial counsellors ranked each of the big four banks in terms of their hardship policies and practices on a scale of one to 10 (with one being the lowest ranking and 10 the highest ranking).
The rankings for the 2014-15 survey (with the 2013 results in brackets were): Westpac 7.0 (5.0), NAB 6.7 (6.2), ANZ 6.4 (5.9) and CBA 5.3 (4.4).
Westpac received the highest ranking and was also the bank that financial counsellors said was the most improved.
“Westpac’s improved result in this survey was not a surprise. Westpac has engaged extensively with financial counsellors and made a number of changes over the past couple of years that are demonstrably making a difference. These include dealing effectively with customers with unrecoverable debt and their ‘get it right first time’ policy” said Ms Guthrie.
NAB and ANZ were ranked second and third respectively. ANZ had been the most improved bank in the 2013 survey and in this survey also scored highly on this attribute. CBA received the lowest ranking, which was also the case in the 2013 survey.
The survey also asked financial counsellors to rate the big four banks on a number of other factors including, communication, attitude toward clients and financial counsellors, consistency and outcomes. Westpac, ANZ and NAB all received similar ratings. CBA’s results were much lower on all factors.
The one area of concern was for the question relating to ‘self advocacy’. The majority of financial counsellors believe that self-advocating customers will ‘not often’ achieve the same outcomes as if they had been assisted by a financial counsellor.
Financial counsellors also commonly deal with Citibank and GE. On a scale of one to 10, GE’s rating was essentially unchanged between the 2013 and 2014-15 surveys (5.6 vs 5.7) but the ranking for Citibank shows a large improvement from 3.5 to 5.4.
The ratings for the other banks were (with the 2013 results in brackets): AMP Bank 5.0 (3.7), Bank of Queensland 5.1 (3.9), Bendigo and Adelaide Bank 5.4 (4.3), Bankwest 4.5 (4.1), HSBC 4.7 (4.0), ING Direct 4.4 (3.6), Macquarie 3.8 (3.1), Members Equity Bank 4.5 (4.3), MyState 3.8 (not rated in 2013) and Suncorp 4.9 (3.9).
“Financial counsellors and the banking industry have worked collaboratively over the past few years to improve hardship policies and practices. ” said Ms Guthrie.
“The industry has made a number of changes including investing in staff training, streamlining approval processes, reducing documentation and improving information about hardship assistance on websites. These changes are paying off.”
“There is still some work to do with the smaller banks, but the trend is definitely in the right direction.”
Financial counsellors encourage the other industries with which we work extensively – utilities and telcos – to replicate the approach taken by the banking industry. The meaningful changes reflected in the Rank the Banks results, as well as other areas of banking affecting low income consumers, are a direct result of the leadership and commitment from bank CEOs, extensive and respectful engagement with the financial counselling sector and a clear program of reform.
The Rank the Banks report is attached below.
Financial counsellors: community-based professionals providing information, support and advocacy for people in financial difficulty.
Anyone who is in financial difficulty can contact a free and independent financial counsellor on 1800 007 007 or visit www.debtselfhelp.org.au.
For further comment please contact: Fiona Guthrie 0402 426 835