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New Financial Assistance Hub

Raising the bar to help customers doing it tough

20 March 2019

Customers at risk of elder financial abuse, those exiting a violent relationship and someone experiencing an unexpected long-term illness are among the focus of new ‘vulnerable customer guidelines’, on which public consultation opens today.

The consultation, open to the public, will result in a new industry guideline on supporting vulnerable customers, to complement the new Banking Code of Practice, and will be launched later this year. The guideline will outline ABA members’ commitment to ensuring customers can access appropriate banking products and services, which are suitable and fair for their circumstance. It will also reassure customers that they should feel comfortable telling their bank if they are experiencing vulnerability.

CEO of the Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said that this was an important piece of work for the industry which has a responsibility to assist vulnerable customers.

“There is no doubt the Royal Commission showed that banks need to lift their game when it comes to vulnerable customers, particularly in the design of products and offering of support services.

“Customers from all walks of life can experience vulnerability at one time or another, for example exiting a violent relationship or an unexpected serious illness can make anyone financially vulnerable.

“The industry is eager to hear from the community on what they think should be in this new guideline, including views from the general public along with stakeholder groups.

“Banks will work with the community, incorporating feedback from this consultation process, to develop a new guideline which raise the bar in the support vulnerable customers can expect from their banks,” she said.

CEO of the Financial Counselling Australia Fiona Guthrie said the consultation was an important step in lifting the bar on how banks support vulnerable customers.

“At some point in our lives, many of us could find ourselves in situations that make us vulnerable – financial hardship, physical or mental illness, relationship breakdown or even cognitive impairment as we age,” Ms Guthrie said.

“We need to know that our banks will be there to support us through the good and the bad times.

“It is very positive to see the banking industry beginning a significant piece of work about how it can better support customers experiencing vulnerability.

“Banks play a pivotal role in our community and they are taking a lead in doing this work. We hope it will encourage other industries to do the same,” she said.

All stakeholder groups and members of the public are encouraged to have their say on this important issue. For more information on how to make a submission click here (PDF) or here (Word).

ENDS
Contact: Rory Grant 0475 741 007

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