Code for Banking Practice Welcomed
31 January 2013 at 3:11 pm
Good Shepherd Microfinance has welcomed the commitment by Australian Bankers’ Association members to improving customer rights outlined in the revised Code of Banking Practice.
“Any change that leads to an increased awareness of the needs of banking customers by the financial services sector is to be celebrated,” Michelle Crawford, the Deputy CEO of Good Shepherd Microfinance said.
“Since the Global Financial Crisis, changes to consumer banking regulations and tighter capital requirements have favoured profitable customers and excluded people on low incomes,” Crawford said.
The Australian Bankers’ Association says the Code is contractually binding on subscribing banks and sets out the minimum standards banks have agreed to follow when dealing with personal and small business customers.
“The Code of Banking Practice sets out the commitment banks have made to their customers, whether individuals, families or small businesses. The Code sets the standards for fairness, transparency, behaviour and accountability that customers can expect from their banks,” Steven Münchenberg, the Chief Executive of the ABA said.
“The Code gives customers additional rights, on top of those in the law, and provides straightforward ways for customers to complain if they feel their bank has not met its Code obligations.”
“The improved Code has been released following an extensive independent review and consultation process,” Münchenberg said.
“The revised Code is a welcome redress where since 2008, banks in Australia – with the exception of our foundation partner NAB – have scaled back the provision of credit and essential financial services for people on low incomes and changed the debate to focus on consumer behaviour through financial literacy, rather than a market failure to provide affordable products,” Michelle Crawford said.
“In Australia currently there are three million people with no access to a credit card, bank account or insurance.”
Crawford said that all banking staff should be aware of community lending options, such as the No Interest Loan Scheme offered through Good Shepherd Microfinance and community partners, and actively advise eligible customers wherever they live.
“Our 30 years’ experience of offering no and low interest loans is helping to build assets and provide security to allow people to be included socially and financially wherever they live in Australia.”
And with one in eight Australians classified as poor, Crawford said that the revised Code of Banking Practice placed the banks on notice to establish appropriate mechanisms to ensure the needs of financially stressed customers were met and that staff were trained to identify trigger points.
“We believe that this is a step towards improving financial services and meeting the needs of customers, as is the need for all staff to highlight the value of appropriate and affordable insurance on an annual basis to property owners,” she said.
Crawford said that Good Shepherd Microfinance would be monitoring the take up of the new Code and are happy to share knowledge expertise and experience with the sector where it leads to improved access .
Signatories have 12 months to make changes to their systems, processes, documentation and training to make sure they are compliant by 1 February 2014.
The Sisters of Good Shepherd initiated Australia’s first microfinance program over 30 years ago. Today, Good Shepherd Microfinance runs Australia’s largest community microfinance program, and has reached over 100,000 people and families in partnership with 258 accredited community agencies, the National Australia Bank and the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
The new Code is available from the ABA website: www.bankers.asn.au