Skip to main content
New Financial Assistance Hub

Banks unite to help customers experiencing financial abuse

4 April 2021

Australian banks are launching updated guidelines on financial abuse as part of their continued focus on responding to family violence and elder abuse. 

The updated industry-wide approach is designed to ensure bank staff are equipped to recognise signs of financial abuse. 

“This kind of behaviour is a form of domestic violence. It can be an enabler for partners to keep women trapped in abusive and often dangerous relationships”, said ABA CEO Anna Bligh. 

“It’s also used against the elderly. Elder abuse can take many forms; coercing someone to sign, forging signatures, withholding access to money.” 

“Banks take incredibly seriously their role in supporting customers experiencing financial abuse”, Ms Bligh said. 

The revised guidelines—last updated for family and domestic violence in 2016 and financial abuse in 2014—recognise cases of financial abuse increase during times of major crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts, floods and bushfires. 

They also modernise banks’ approach to the issue, reflecting the uptake of digital banking and new risks such as the use of transaction description fields to threaten, harass and intimidate.  

“Bank staff are well trained to spot red flags and respond to cases of financial abuse. These guidelines will ensure that protection of vulnerable customers remains a key priority”, Ms Bligh said. 

“Anyone experiencing financial abuse should talk to their bank. They are ready to help.” 

“Bank staff are well trained to spot red flags and respond to cases of financial abuse. These guidelines will ensure that protection of vulnerable customers remains a key priority”

ABA CEO Anna Bligh

What is the banking industry doing? 

The banking industry has well developed processes in place to assist customers impacted by family violence and elder abuse.   

Banks understand that the issues faced by customers experiencing abuse are complex, and specific responses vary according to the customer’s circumstances which may change over time. 

ABA has worked with banks and community advocates to update and enhance our existing industry guidelines: 

The guidelines outline policies and practices that banks will have in place to support customers impacted by family violence and/or financial abuse, for example: 

  • Specialised training for staff to help them recognise the warning signs and support customers 
  • Making it easier for customers to communicate with the bank in a safe and confidential way  
  • Guidance on reporting to relevant authorities  
  • Referring customers for extra support  
  • Helping customers regain control over their finances 

Family Domestic Violence Bank Guidelines
These guides include using alternative identification documents for victims of domestic violence who have no access to relevant documents

Key updates 

Both guides: 

  • Reflect improved industry practice in identifying financial abuse 
  • Align to the new Banking Code  
  • Update external referrals and information for customers 
  • Update staff training to detect and appropriately respond to abuse 
  • Improve bank practices to respond to emerging issues 

Preventing and responding to financial abuse (including elder financial abuse) includes: 

This updated guideline responds to recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission report into elder abuse including an industry guideline that sets out reasonable steps in relation to: 

Preventing and responding to Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) includes updates relating to: 

  • Responding to abuse in transaction descriptions 
  • Reporting obligations regarding family and domestic violence 
  • Providing simple document request processes 
  • Opening new bank accounts (including using alternative identification documents for victims of domestic violence who have no access to relevant documents) 
  • Providing advice to customers regarding account settings and alternatives (such as two to sign, secondary credit card holders, and children’s accounts), amending operating instructions to ‘two to sign’, and proactive reminders of account settings (such as authorisations required for drawdowns / withdrawals) 

Help stop elder financial abuse

Latest news

1 / 3
Anna Bligh Interview with ABC Radio Brisbane, discussing future of cash and Digital ID
3 April 2024

Steve Austin  Well as you know, the Commonwealth Government has made it clear they consider access to cash a priority for the Australian economy and the country’s largest banks, as well as Coles, Woolworths, companies like Wesfarmers and Australia Post have been trying to put together a short term lifeline for Armaguard, who’s the company… Read more »

Read more
Anna Bligh interview on Sunrise about the future of cash
3 April 2024

Natalie Barr  And to the cash emergency hitting our country. Emergency talks are being held this week, with our top banks preparing for a potential cash crash. It comes as Australia’s key money supplier Armaguard fights to stay afloat. Spearheaded by the Australian Banking Association, the banks are now pulling together a contingency plan to… Read more »

Read more
Media Releases
ABA statement on financial support for Linfox Armaguard
2 April 2024

The Australian Banking Association acknowledges Linfox Armaguard (LFA)’s statement that they won’t be taking up the offer of financial support from a collective of banks, retailers and supermarkets.    We welcome Armaguard’s commitment that they will continue to operate and have secured funds from their parent company to maintain their full suite of services.   Australia’s largest… Read more »

Read more