Broker or Banker – Which is Best?

Well, according to new research from Roy Morgan, home loan customer satisfaction with banks when using a mortgage broker was only 77.3%. This compares to 80.3% when home loans were obtained in person at a branch. So Banker is best….

Even among more recent home loans (held for under six years) satisfaction with going directly into branch was 81.7% compared to 78.7% for mortgage brokers. This is an important finding because it illustrates the potential impact that a third party can have on the satisfaction level of customers with their banks.

These results cover the six months to January 2018 and are from the Roy Morgan Single Source survey of over 50,000 consumers per annum, including over 12,000 mortgage holders.

Nearly all of the largest banks home loan customers have higher satisfaction with their bank when they obtained their loan in person at a branch, rather than through a mortgage broker. Home loan customers of Bendigo Bank who obtained their loan in person at a branch had the highest satisfaction with 92.6%, followed by Bankwest (87.3%) and St George (86.8%). The best of the big four was NAB with 82.4%, followed by ANZ (79.7%). All of the largest banks, with the exception of Westpac, had higher satisfaction when going direct rather than using mortgage brokers.

Home Loan Consumer Satisfaction: Obtained through Branch vs Mortgage Broker2 – Largest Home Loan Banks1

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia). 6 months to January 2018, n= 6,052 Base: Australians 14+ with home loan. 1. Based on largest number of home loans purchased at a branch. 2. Excludes other methods of obtaining home loans. 3. Includes brands not shown.

Satisfaction when using mortgage brokers was highest for St George with 85.6%, Bankwest (82.1%) and Suncorp Bank (82.0%). Each of the big four were below the market average (77.3%) for home loan customer satisfaction when using a mortgage broker, with the best of them being NAB (76.4%) and Westpac (75.7%).

Home loan customers go in person to branch

Despite many channels available to obtain home loans, over half (52.4%) of all current loans were sourced from going in person to a bank branch. This is well ahead of the 34.3% who purchased their loan through a mortgage broker. With these two channels accounting for 86.7% of the current market, it is important for banks to know how they perform in each in terms of customer satisfaction.

Method Used To Obtain Home Loan

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia). 6 months to January 2018, n= 6,052. Base: Australians 14+ with home loan
Other channels used to obtain home loans were, ‘in person with a mobile bank representative’ (8.7%, satisfaction 78.9%) and ‘over the phone’ (4.0%, satisfaction 80.3%).

Banking Is Changing – A Case In Point – NAB and The Riverina

A release from NAB today.  Bye-bye branches.

In 2018, the way customers are banking in the Riverina and the surrounding areas has changed. Today, in response, NAB confirms changes to some of its branches in the area.

  • NAB invests $1.6M to improve branches in the Riverina and surrounding areas in 2017 and 2018.
  • Following consultation with local teams, NAB can confirm Ardlethan, Lockhart, Grenfell, Culcairn, Boort, Barham and Euroa branches will close in June.
  • Customers in these towns can continue to do their banking at Australia Post offices, including making deposits up to $10,000 cash or withdrawals up to $2,000 per day.
  • NAB continues to back the Riverina through its other NAB branches across the region, sponsorships, including NAB AFL Auskick, and by funding and advocating for infrastructure so regional areas can grow.
  • Our business and agri bankers will continue to service the areas.

Locally, NAB is investing more than $1.6M into improving branches in Cowra, Seymour and Kerang, completed last year, and Tatura, Alexandra and Griffith, scheduled to be completed by September 2018, including installing and upgrading 32 ATMs in the area. Many of these ATMs are ‘Smart ATMs’, where customers can make deposits, check balances, and withdraw cash so customers can bank at their convenience.

As improvements are made to some branches, other branches in the area will be closing. Between 80-90% of NAB customers in Ardlethan, Lockhart, Grenfell and Culcairn are using other branches in the area such as Temora, Wagga Wagga, Young and Holbrook. Similarly approximately 85% of customers using Euroa, Boort and Barham are using other branches .

NAB General Manager, Retail, Paul Juergens, explained the decision was a difficult one to make and was only made after careful consideration.

“While our branches continue to be an important part of what we do at NAB, the way our customers are banking has changed dramatically in recent years,” Mr Juergens said.

“Increasingly we find that our customers are banking at other branches, or prefer to do their banking online, on the phone, or through our mobile app.

“In the locations we are closing, more than 80% of our customers are also using our other NAB branches in the area.

“Importantly, we are continuing to support the Riverina and surrounding areas, including a $1.6M investment into other branches in the area as well as through local sponsorships.”

Mr Juergens emphasised that NAB wants to continue to help our customers with their banking.

“Over the coming weeks, we’ll be spending time with our customers explaining the different banking options available to them, including online banking and banking through Australia Post.

“We know that some NAB customers still like to bank in person, which is why we have a strong relationship with Australia Post offices, which offer banking services on NAB’s behalf.

“At Australia Post, NAB customers can do banking like check account balances, pay bills and make deposits up to $10,000 cash or withdrawals up to $2,000 per day.”

NAB is working with our local branch employees to discuss their next steps.

“When we make changes to our branches, we make every effort to find opportunities for our local teams at other branches in our network, and often this is possible. If we can’t find opportunities, we help our employees through The Bridge, our industry leading program where employees are provided up to six months of career coaching as they decide what’s next for them – whether that be retirement, pursuing a new career or starting a small business.”

Why Are Banks Shuttering Branches?

From The St. Louis Fed On The Economy Blog

On Feb. 6, the Wall Street Journal published a startling statistic: Between June 2016 and June 2017, more than 1,700 U.S. bank branches were closed, the largest 12-month decline on record.1

Structural Shift

That large drop, while surprising, is part of a trend in net branch closures that began in 2009. It follows a profound structural shift in the number and size of independent U.S. banking headquarters, or charters, over the past three decades.

In 1980, nearly 20,000 commercial banks and thrifts with more than 42,000 branches were operating in the nation. Since then, the number of bank and thrift headquarters has steadily declined.

The reasons for the decline in charters and branches are varied. Regarding charters, the passage of the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act in 1994 played a significant role in their decline. Banks operating in more than one state took advantage of the opportunity to consolidate individual state charters into one entity and convert the remaining banks into branches. Almost all states opted in to a provision in the law permitting interstate branching, which led to a steady increase in branches.

Trend Reversal

Even before the number of charters declined, however, the number of branches grew steadily throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. It peaked in 2009, when the trend reversed, as seen in the figure below.

Since 2009, the number of commercial bank and thrift branches has shrunk nearly 10 percent, or just over 1 percent per year.

The initial wave of closings can be attributed to a wave of mergers and failed bank acquisitions following the financial crisis. There was an immediate opportunity to reduce cost through the shuttering of inefficient office locations. Branch closings were also influenced by earnings pressure from low interest rates and rising regulatory costs.

More recently, changing consumer preferences and improvements in financial technology have further spurred the reduction in branches. Customers increasingly use ATMs, online banking and mobile apps to conduct routine banking business, meaning banks can close less profitable branches without sacrificing market share.

Uneven Changes

The reduction in offices has not been uniform. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., less than one-fifth of banks reported a net decline in offices between 2012 and 2017, and slightly more than one-fifth reported an increase in offices.

Just 15 percent of community banks reported branch office closures between 2012 and 2017. And though closures outnumber them, new branches continue to be opened. It’s also important to note that deposits continue to grow—especially at community banks—even as the number of institutions and branches decline.

The Industry of the Future

It seems inevitable that this long-term trend in branch closings will continue as consumer preferences evolve and financial technology becomes further ingrained in credit and payment services.

Although it is unlikely that the U.S. will end up resembling other countries with relatively few bank charters, it seems certain that consumers and businesses will increasingly access services with technology, no matter the size or location of bank offices. This change creates opportunities as well as operational risks that will need to be managed by banks and regulators alike.

The Digital Payment Boom in India

From The IMFBlog.

What does a shoe shiner in India have in common with central bankers and finance ministers? They both can appreciate the digital-payment boom. It’s sweeping the world but has accelerated in India, where last November the government demonetized—declaring that 86 percent of the country’s currency in circulation would cease to be legal tender.

Mobile payment platforms like Paytm, stepped in to fill the void left by demonetization, and in the process­- are bringing more people into the banking fold. In this podcast, Paytm Chief Financial Officer Madhur Deora says he was not all that surprised when the invitation came to speak at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings.

“All bodies around the world—whether they’re central banks, the IMF, World Bank or the World Economic Forum—are seeing this as perhaps one of the top two or three changes or developments around the world that can have the biggest impact,” Deora said.

And the scale of that impact is significant, he said.

“Some of the problems that have existed for decades, 50 years, maybe 100 years in some places—we really have the opportunity to solve a lot of those problems over the next, literally, five years,” Deora said.

He gives the expanding use of smart phones a lot of the credit. Until four years ago, mobile payments didn’t exist in India. But smart-phone penetration has grown, and in the next few years, he sees 60-70% of the population having smart phones.

Beyond payments, the digital platform also allows those who previously couldn’t open a bank account or get a loan access to an array of financial services and products.

“We can solve for borrowing, access to credit. We can also solve for access to savings products, because our distribution is very, very cheap,” he said.

For finance chiefs and central bankers, digital payments allow them to more accurately assess the economy, as well as tax more efficiently.

While some may be leery of regulation, Deora sees it as a help, not a hindrance, to problems related to a country’s development.

“Lack of financial inclusion, which is present in most emerging markets is a problem that bothers well-meaning central bankers. I think regulators around the world have woken up to the fact that technologies can solve those problems,” he said.

This all may sound as if the entrepreneur has become a budding expert in development.

“I think that might be pushing it a bit, but we certainly see the potential for social impact. We see that this has some behavior-changing outcomes, and perhaps, very soon, some life-changing outcomes,” Deora said.

Listen to the podcast here:

Mobile-First Digital Banking Strategy Takes Hold In The Midwest

From S&P Global.

Banks across the U.S. are adopting a mobile-first strategy for their digital offerings, and the Midwest is no exception.

U.S. consumers value their mobile bank apps more than ever, and expectations for these products are growing increasingly sophisticated. Once-novel mobile features such as photo check deposit and bill pay are now table stakes, and banks seeking to offer a competitive digital experience have to evaluate an ever-evolving range of services.

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 2017 U.S. Mobile Banking Landscape includes regional insights from our 2017 mobile banking survey and details on the features available in the apps of dozens of U.S. financial institutions, including more than two dozen large banks and 45 companies with less than $50 billion in assets. The latter group consists of five smaller regional and community banks from each of the nine U.S. census divisions. This article focuses on the Midwest, which includes the East North Central and West North Central census divisions.

Our survey found that Midwestern mobile banking customers are most interested in seeing credit score information added to their apps. Consumers’ preoccupation with their credit files is only likely to intensify in the wake of the Equifax data breach. Few of the regional bank apps from around the country that we recently reviewed provide access to this information, although First National Bank of Omaha makes it available to consumer credit card customers.

Which bank app features are missing? (%)

Another highly valued feature for bank app users is fingerprint login, which many Midwestern banks offer. But with the rollout of Apple’s new iPhone X and other evolutions in mobile technology, banks across the country are increasingly having to pay attention to alternative forms of biometric authentication, including face ID. Banks are responding to their customers’ desire for even more convenient access to account information by allowing them to view their balances without logging in to the app.

Customers also want access to certain card controls via their bank apps, including the ability to temporarily switch cards on or off, and to report them lost or stolen. Jefferson City, Mo.-based Central Banco. Inc. and Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Great Western Bancorp Inc. are among the institutions planning to roll out such features in the near future, while Saint Paul, Minn.-based Bremer Financial Corp. makes certain card controls and account alert management available through a separate, third-party app.

The availability of certain features is just one way to assess the quality of a mobile offering. Customers who provide app store reviews clearly value speed, reliability, and an intuitive layout, and they seem to prefer having all features available on one platform.

Central Bank is redesigning its whole app for release next year, with the goal of providing a more user-friendly experience by streamlining navigation and better surfacing popular features such as person-to-person payments. The bank is taking the mobile-first approach seriously, as mobile logins have overtaken desktop logins, and about 65% of the company’s digital traffic is coming through phones.

Great Western Bank, whose deposits are primarily spread across Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Colorado, also hears from customers that they want improved core functionality, for example, faster transaction alerts. Great Western uses a niche digital vendor for its mobile channel and believes this is more advantageous than using a standard package from core systems providers.

The Midwest is home to some of the nation’s few mobile-ready ATMs. Chicago-area Wintrust Financial Corp. is a relatively early adopter of Cardless Cash, which lets the customer scan a QR code with their smartphone instead of using a debit card to withdraw money. In a competitive banking environment, and especially in heavily banked areas, financial institutions are keeping an eye on customer attrition and looking for an edge. This sometimes means making investments in new ATM hardware or services like mobile P2P payments that do not necessarily add revenue but that have become part of what customers expect from their banks.

It is difficult to quantify the value of a high-quality mobile banking experience, but our survey results give an idea of how important it is to consumers. Despite being generally fee-averse, more than 40% of survey respondents from the Midwest indicated that they would be willing to pay $1 per month to use their bank apps, while more than 20% said they would pay $3 per month. Respondents from the East North Central census division, which includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, were more willing to pay a fee. Although banks are unlikely to start charging for their digital services, satisfied mobile banking users could prove stickier deposit customers even as rates continue to rise and other institutions tempt them with promotional offerings.

When it comes to delivering products and services, banks of all sizes have a high bar to meet. Large, deep-pocketed institutions are constantly innovating with their digital channels, and it is not easy for their smaller peers to keep up. But many regional and community banks boast sophisticated mobile apps with desirable features that are not yet ubiquitous among the nation’s largest banks. In a banking landscape populated by fewer branches and with visits to those locations by tech-savvy customers on the decline, the combination of a strong local brand and robust digital experience could give smaller banks a competitive edge.

Methodology

The 2017 mobile banking survey was fielded online between January 26 and February 1 across a nationwide random sample of 4,000 U.S. mobile bank app users 18 years and older. Results have a margin of error of +/- 1.6% at the 95% confidence level based on the sample size of 4,000.

S&P Global Market Intelligence researched mobile apps in June 2017 for more than two dozen financial institutions, including the biggest retail banking franchises in the U.S. and various large regional and branchless banks. Between September 18 and November 10, S&P Global Market Intelligence researched mobile apps for 45 smaller regional players and large community banks. The latter analysis focused, for the most part, on the top five retail deposit market share leaders with under $50 billion in assets in each of the nine U.S. census divisions.

This research is based on product descriptions available on bank websites and in app stores, as well as company-provided information. Some companies may have subsequently updated their apps or may offer additional features and services. Our analysis does not necessarily reflect functionality or services available through text banking, mobile browsers or secure messaging.

Suncorp opens the doors of its Sydney Discovery Store

Suncorp has opened their Discovery Store in Sydney’s CBD. It is designed as a flexible, customer centric space, including third party brands and will be open 7 days a weeks. It will be interesting to see how this move fairs against the strong drift to digital based banking which we are observing, but some might draw parallels with the tech-sector retail flagships; we will see.

You can read more about customer channel preference in our recently published The Quiet Revolution Report, available for free, on request.

Customers will be treated to a unique retail experience, a first of its kind for financial services in Australia, with Suncorp opening the doors to its new Discovery Store in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall today.

The Suncorp Discovery Store is designed to be a destination for customers, where they can access end-to-end solutions tailored to their life events. It draws on all of Suncorp’s brands as well as our innovative third-party providers. Discovery Store delivers an immersive retail journey, where visitors can attend events, interactive workshops and explore solutions tailored to their life goals.

Suncorp CEO Customer Marketplace Pip Marlow said it will be a new experience, which is designed to make financial solutions simpler and more accessible.

“We’re shifting the focus from products and services, to having  conversations that are more about our customers’ aspirations, whether it’s home ownership, saving for a holiday or buying a car, so we can create value for them,” Ms Marlow said.

The store lay-out has been designed with a range of flexible spaces and interactive digital tools, built around a central amphitheatre.

Each month the entire space will be transformed to deliver a brand-new customer experience, with innovative product showcases, guest speakers and workshops focused on improving financial wellbeing.

“We want visitors to really take advantage of the space, drop in, have a coffee and wander around to see what’s on offer. Pitt Street Mall is one of Australia’s busiest retail precincts. It’s not just a place to shop, but also where people socialise and immerse themselves in new brands and experiences,” Ms Marlow said.

The Discovery Store will be open 7 days, including late trading. The upper level of the store is dedicated to customer conversations, learning and interactive workshops, while downstairs provides transactional banking services and access to other financial services specialists.

Key features:

  • First of its kind financial services offering to open in Pitt Street Mall.
  • Access to the breadth of Suncorp’s brands, products and services, and third-party partner solutions.
  • Suncorp’s Australian brands: Suncorp (Insurance and Banking), AAMI, GIO, Bingle, Apia, Shannons, Terri Sheer, CIL, Vero, Asteron Life and Resilium.
  • Convenient trading hours: open 7 days and open for late trading. Spans 446 square metres.
  • A community hub with free wi-fi and coffee.

The RBA on ATM’s

The recently published RBA Bulletin included an article “Recent Developments in the ATM Industry”. The article shows that the number of ATMs in Australia is very high relative to population, thanks to significant growth in third party fee for service machines. Now that the banks have announced they will not charge for foreign withdrawals, the RBA says third party players – like owners of petrol stations and convenience stores may see a decline in income, and that overall declines in transaction volumes are likely to reduce the number of machines available, especially in regional areas.  That said, many independently owned ATMs are in convenience locations not serviced by bank ATMs (such as pubs and clubs) and so they may be shielded somewhat from this competitive pressure. But many consumers will end up paying even higher fees to use these machines, which may be the only options for some.

The ATM industry in Australia is undergoing a number of changes. Use of ATMs has been declining as people use cash less often for their  transactions, though the number of ATMs remains at a high level. The total amount spent on ATM fees has fallen, and is likely to decline further as a result of recent decisions by a number of banks to remove their ATM direct charges. This article discusses the implications of these changes for the competitive landscape and the future size and structure of the industry.

By international standards, we have a large number of ATMs per capita (though not corrected for geographic size).

As at September 2017, there were 32 275 ATMs, only slightly below the peak of nearly 32 900 in December 2016. This represents over 1 300 ATMs per million inhabitant.

The share of the national ATM fleet owned by independent deployers has been rising over the past decade. Independent deployers operate standalone ATM networks that are not affiliated with any financial institution and which are often focused on convenience locations like petrol stations and licensed venues. They rely on the revenue generated by charging fees on all transactions, irrespective of the cardholder’s financial institution, to support their networks.

As at June 2017, 57 per cent of ATMs in Australia were independently owned, up from 55 per cent in mid 2015 and 49 per cent in 2010. The remaining 43 per cent were owned by financial institutions. The increase in the independent deployers’ share reflects strong growth in their ATMs, while the number of bank-owned ATMs has declined over the past few years.

A small number of ATMs that carry financial institutions’ branding but are owned and operated by an independent deployer are recorded in data for independent deployers; other similar arrangements may be recorded under financial institutions. (b) In late 2016, DC Payments acquired First Data’s Cashcard ATM business. (c) NAB, Cuscal and Bank of Queensland, along with a number of other smaller financial institutions, are part of the rediATM network, which allows customers of member institutions to access about 3 000 ATMs (as at June 2017) within that network on a fee-free basis. From August 2017, Suncorp also joined the rediATM network. (d) In November 2017, Stargroup was placed in administration after it was unable to complete a restructure of its debt.

There has been significant consolidation in the independent deployer market over recent years. Cardtronics, an independent deployer, had the largest fleet in Australia in June at nearly 10 500 ATMs, which is around one-third of all ATMs. Cardtronics is part of a US-based group that is also the largest deployer of ATMs globally. It entered the Australian market around the start of 2017 when it acquired DC Payments, which was the largest domestic independent deployer at the time. DC Payments had itself acquired a number of smaller independent networks over earlier years, including First Data’s Cashcard ATM business in late 2016. Other large independent deployers, such as Banktech and Next Payments, have also expanded their ATM fleets since 2015, partly through acquisitions.

Despite the increase in the share of independently owned ATMs, most Australian cardholders have had access to large networks of fee-free ATMs provided by their financial institutions. As at June 2017, three of the four major banks each had fleets of at least several thousand ATMs; NAB had the smallest fleet among the majors, but it is also part of the rediATM network, which means its customers had access to about 3 000 ATMs in that network on a fee-free basis.

A number of the banks, including all the majors, have recently removed the ATM withdrawal fees they used to charge non-customers. This means Australian cardholders can now generally access cash free of charge at around 11 000 financial institution ATMs across the country, which is a significant increase in access to fee-free ATM services.

However, following the removal of withdrawal fees by various banks, the distribution has changed significantly: there is now no charge for foreign withdrawals at around one-third of ATMs, whereas most of these ATMs had previously charged $2.00. But Independent deployer ATMs have the greatest variation in ATM fees; as at June this year, their withdrawal fees ranged from zero to $8.00, though most were around $2.50 to $3.00.

With the removal of withdrawal fees providing a much larger network of fee-free ATMs, it will now be even easier for cardholders to avoid paying fees. As a result, those ATM deployers that continue to charge withdrawal fees – particularly independent deployers, who typically charge the highest average fees – may face additional competitive pressure, especially where they have ATMs in close proximity to fee-free bank ATMs. That said, many independently owned ATMs are in convenience locations not serviced by bank ATMs (such as pubs and clubs) and so they may be shielded somewhat from this competitive pressure.

For those banks that eliminated their withdrawal fees, the direct reduction in their revenue will be relatively small, especially given the decline in ATM use over recent years. In particular, based on the Bank’s survey, it is estimated that withdrawal fees paid at ATMs owned by the major banks in 2016/17 totalled around $50 million. As noted earlier, the bulk of ATM fees has been paid at independent deployer ATMs rather than bank-owned ATMs.

Given that cardholders can now effectively use most bank ATMs on a fee-free basis, it is likely that having a large ATM fleet will be viewed as less of a source of competitive advantage to banks than it was in the past. With ATM use declining rapidly and the costs of ATM deployment continuing to rise, the removal of ATM fees may strengthen the case for deployers to reduce the size of their ATM fleets. Having multiple bank ATMs side-by-side or in close proximity (as can often be seen in shopping centres, for example) will make less economic sense now that all or most of those ATMs are fee-free.

Fleet rationalisation could occur in a number of ways. Some banks (and possibly independent deployers) might look to better optimise their own fleets by removing ATMs in low-density or low-use areas. Banks may look to pool part or all of their fleets with other banks under generically branded, shared service or ‘utility’ ATM models as a way to improve efficiency, while still maintaining adequate access for cardholders.

A pooled network may enable the participants to remove ATMs that are co-located or in close proximity, which would reduce costs and help them sustain, and possibly grow, their joint network coverage. Indeed, before the recent announcements on direct charges, some banks had been in discussions about pooling their ATM fleets into a shared utility.

Facing similar downward trends in cash and ATM use, a number of other countries, particularly in northern Europe, have successfully implemented or are considering shared ATM models. For example, bank ATMs in Finland were outsourced to a single operator in the mid 1990s, while Sweden’s five largest banks adopted a utility model earlier this decade. The large Dutch banks are currently looking to set up a joint ATM network to help ensure the continued wide availability of ATMs in the Netherlands even as cash use is decreasing.

While it is too early to assess the full impact of the recent announcements by the major banks, it is likely that they will focus attention on the growing disparity between the number of ATMs in Australia and the demand for ATM services.

Some consolidation seems likely, and may even be desirable for the efficiency and sustainability of the ATM network, though it will be important that adequate access to ATM services is maintained, particularly for people in remote or regional locations, where access to alternative banking services is often limited.

 

 

More On The Digital Banking Revolution and Fintech

We had great reactions to our earlier piece on the Digital Banking Revolution, and where Consumers fit in the Fintech Stack, following the release of our latest Quiet Revolution report.

Of particular interest was our Banking Digital Innovation Life Cycle analysis, as shown below, and includes a number of enhancements:

[Editors Note: Diagram above updated to include Distributed Ledger 27 Nov 17]

We have made a short video describing the approach, and discussing the elements in the diagram. We also highlight what we judge to be the top three most important innovations.

You can obtain a free copy of our Quiet Revolution report,”Time For Digital First“,  which includes our latest consumer research, and is discussed in the video.

 

Keep Me Posted calls on the industry to support the ban on paper fees

From KeepMePosted.

Are we finally heading towards the end of paper billing fees?

On Tuesday 21 November, Treasury launched the process that could see the end of paper billing fees for Australian consumers.

“There has been a significant shift away from paper billing in recent years,” Mr McCormack, Minister for Consumer Affairs, said. “Yet not every Australian consumer has the means to access digital billing and it is unfair to punish them for being unable to do so. Better outcomes and protections are needed for those consumers who do not have the option to transition to digital bills and who can least afford to be penalised.”

Keep Me Posted, which has been working tirelessly for the last 18 months to obtain legislative reform, worked with the Minister’s office in the lead up to the consultation and met with Treasury’s representatives on Thursday afternoon as part of the consultation process.

“We clearly stated Keep Me Posted’s position to support a total ban on all billing fees, which is option 2 of the consultation paper,” said Kellie Northwood, Executive Director, Keep Me Posted.

“We call on all Australians, industry stakeholders, interested groups and consumers to have their say and support the ban.”

Treasury’s consultation paper explores the costs and benefits of five (5) options, including the prohibition of paper fees, option 2. Keep Me Posted says it is the only option that can guarantee consumer protection against unfair and discriminatory charges.

Treasury is seeking submissions from consumers and consumer advocates, businesses and environmental groups. Individuals can leave an informal comment on the website or post a simple letter to Treasury.

According to Treasury’s estimates, the total annual cost of a ban would be between $80 and $93 million for the sixteen (16) Australian businesses with the largest customer base. As a comparison, it is expected that abolishing ATM fees, measure that was announced in September, will cost the big four banks $500 million a year. The relative cost to businesses doesn’t seem very high compared with the financial pressure that is put on vulnerable consumers.

Keep Me Posted doesn’t accept the idea that electronic bills are a ‘free’ option for consumers to receive their bills and statements. “When you opt-in to electronic bills and statements it means you need to possess and keep an electronic device, pay for an internet subscription or for mobile data, and more often than not you pay to print the bill at home,” commented Kellie Northwood.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016, with a rank of 100 out of 139 countries for fixed broadband internet tariffs, Australia lags way behind in terms of internet affordability. More, the latest Deloitte report into mobile usage shows that 43% of smartphone owners regularly exceed their data allowance with a collective cost of $300 million a year in extra charges.

Further, the ACCC reported that Australians lost nearly $300 million to scams in 2016, $84 million in losses being reported to Scamwatch and nearly $216 million to ACORN and other scam disruption programs. The majority of these scams, 43%, were delivered by electronic means while only 4.1% came in the mail. In October, ACCC revealed that False billing is one of the top three (3) scams that Australians are most likely to encounter online.

Tim Hammond, Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs and vocal supporter of the ban welcomed Treasury’s consultation paper and urged Australians who don’t want to pay extra to receive a bill by post to make a submission. Tim Hammond also criticised the Government for not tackling the issue sooner. Back in June, Tim Hammond moved a motion in Parliament to ask the Government to restore consumer protection. “We’ve got to restore the playing field for those who don’t have easy access online to make sure they are not getting stung for paper bills,” Tim commented.

“For Australians consumers, we really want the issue to be solved as soon as possible,” concluded Northwood. “It’s time for Government to apply a bit of good old fashioned common sense and make it clear to super profit companies that hidden or added costs along the way are not acceptable.”

Australians have until Friday 22nd December to make a submission.

Time For “Digital First” – The Quiet Revolution Report Vol 3 Released

Digital Finance Analytics has released the latest edition of our flagship channel preferences report – “The Quiet Revolution” Volume 3, now available free on request, using the form below.

This report contains the latest results from our household surveys with a focus on their use of banking channels, preferred devices and social media trends.

Our research shows that consumers have largely migrated into the digital world and have a strong expectation that existing banking services will be delivered via mobile devices and new enhanced services will be extended to them. Even “Digital Luddites”, the least willing to migrate are nevertheless finally moving into the digital domain. Now the gap between expectation and reality is larger than ever.

Looking across the transaction life cycle, from search, apply, transact and service; universally the desire by households to engage digitally is now so compelling that banks have no choice but to respond more completely.

We also identified a number of compelling new services which consumers indicated they were expecting to see, and players need to develop plans to move into these next generation banking offerings. Many centre around bots, smart agents and “Siri-Like” capabilities.

We have developed a mud-map to illustrate the journey of investment and disinvestment in banking. The DFA Banking Innovation Life Cycle, which is informed by our research, highlights the number of current assets and functions which are in the slope of decline, and those climbing the hill of innovation.  A number of current “fixtures” in the banking landscape will decline in importance, and in relatively short order.

We are now at a critical inflection point in the development of banking as digital now takes the lead.  Players must move from omni-channel towards digital first strategies, where the deployment of existing services via mobile is just the first stage in the development of new services, designed from the customers point of view and offering real value added capabilities. These must be delivered via mobile devices, and leverage the capabilities of social media, big data and advanced analytics.

This is certainly not a cost reduction exercise, although the reduction in branch footprint, which we already see as 10% of outlets have closed in the past 2 years, does offer the opportunity to reduce the running costs of the physical infrastructure. Significant investment will need to be made in new core capabilities, as well as the reengineering of existing back-end systems and processes. At the same time banks must deal with their “stranded costs”.

The biggest challenges in this migration are cultural and managerial. But the evidence is clear that customers are already way ahead of where most banks are in Australia today. This means there is early mover advantage, for those who handle the transition swiftly. It is time to get off the fence, and on the digital transformation fast track. Now, banking has to be rebuilt from the bottom up. Digitally.

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The first edition is still available, in which we discuss the digital branding of incumbents and challengers, using our thought experiment.

Volume 2 from 2016 is also available.