Report reveals differences in how banks treat Victorians doing it tough

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Westpac need to ‘lift their game’ according to the results of survey of Victorian financial counsellors conducted by the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC).

The ‘Rank the Bank’ survey assessed the opinions of more than 100 Victorian financial counsellors in late 2011 with regards to how Australia’s ‘big four’ banks – ANZ, CBA, Westpac and NAB, deal with Victorians struggling to make repayments. The survey focused on three areas: 1) the quality of communication of the ‘big four’ with customers and financial counsellors in relation to financial hardship matters; 2) satisfaction with outcomes for customers; and 3) bank processes and attitudes. Westpac and CBA both ‘failed’ overall in their responses to people in financial difficulty with CBA ranked the lowest of the ‘big four’ banks on all measures, leaving us to
wonder whether CBA ‘CAN’ assist their customers doing it tough.

Results clearly ranked NAB as the current industry leader. Financial counsellors consistently rated NAB’s financial hardship processes and client outcomes higher than any other ‘big four’ bank. ANZ ranked second and was the only other bank to obtain a ‘pass’ mark.

Even with NAB and ANZ fulfilling basic requirements, the results showed room for improvement with each of the ‘big four’ banks.

At today’s launch of the ‘Rank the Bank’ report, FCRC’s Exective Officer, Peter Gartlan explained that the survey aimed to obtain a more accurate picture of the top four banks’ responses to financial hardship in Victoria in order to highlight what is working well and improve the policies and procedures that are failing.

“The way the banks respond to their customers struggling to make repayments can often make or break a family’s path to financial recovery. The ‘Rank the Bank’ report clearly identifies areas for improvement for the banks’ hardship policies and procedures and we look forward to working with them to achieve better customer outcomes, which we see as a win/win,” Mr. Gartlan said.

Financial difficulty can affect anyone. Economic instability, unexpected illness, relationship breakdown and unemployment have meant that many families and individuals fall into financial difficulty. Uncertain economic times and increased financial services regulation, combined with community expectations, demand that major institutions such as the ‘big four’ have in place appropriate policies to support customers that experience financial hardship.

“FCRC understands that CBA and Westpac have recently made changes in how they respond to financial hardship of their customers and we look forward to seeing those changes reflected in our next Rank the Bank survey.” said Mr. Gartlan

For free, independent financial counselling, call 1800 007 007 Australia wide.