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Australia Makes Fortune’s Change the World List

19 August 2016 at 4:59 pm
Ellie Cooper
For the first time Australia has been recognised by global business magazine Fortune’s Change the World List, with National Australia Bank ranking 22nd.

Ellie Cooper | 19 August 2016 at 4:59 pm


Australia Makes Fortune’s Change the World List
19 August 2016 at 4:59 pm

For the first time Australia has been recognised by global business magazine Fortune’s Change the World List, with National Australia Bank ranking 22nd.

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The list, in its second year, includes companies that have a positive social impact through activities that are a core part of their business strategy.

NAB was recognised for its shared value initiatives, including helping to address the social issues associated with growing household debt in Australia.

“In a country with soaring household debt, a bank tries a softer touch with hardship cases,” Fortune wrote of NAB.

Working with partners, including Not for Profit Kildonan UnitingCare, NAB undertook a “radical redesign” of its debt collection system.

NAB reduced the 21 days it once took to consider hardship cases to 20 minutes over the phone, loan defaults were reduced by $60 million last year and complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service are the lowest in the industry at 11 a month.

“We actually think it’s a little bit more holistic than that,” general manager of NAB’s hardship program Joseph Seychell told Pro Bono Australia News.

“We very much recognise that a customer that comes to NAB is one that we want to have for life, and that in life they’re going to have lots of ups and downs. We understand that customers will need help from time to time, and that when we look at the help and the offerings we give, it’s with a perspective of this is a customer we want to have for life.

“And then when we bring a humane side to this… the reality is [people] are only one phone call away from… having a large, life-changing event happening to them, and when that occurs how are we placed to best help that customer through that process.

“Some of that is by giving more time, some of that’s by looking at the financials in a different light, some of that is actually giving them support to fix some of the problems that are occurring to them.

“And we’re under no illusion around the right priority order there. Sometimes a customer has issues that we need to help them with first, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s domestic violence… whether it’s basic housing. We have agencies that we now have employed and engaged to help the customer with those issues, then we can look at some of the financial issues that come with that.”

Seychell said when the bank initially discussed the changes, there was the “big corporate” concerns that it would cost a lot of money or cause a drop in return rates.

“But actually what we have found is that in fact, funnily enough, working with customers and being positive with customers has done a couple of things,” he said.

“First of all it actually has meant that customers work with you and are able to meet the vast majority of their commitments. It might take a little bit more time to get to that point but… they want to pay, they just need to find the mechanism to pay. In terms of the dollars that have come through, we collect more dollars today from our customers than we ever have before.

“Secondly… we ask our customers how they’re feeling about NAB, how they’re feeling about the agent… and we have one of the highest [scores] across the NAB business.”

Peter Yates, chair of the Shared Value Project of which NAB is a founding member, said the list was an endorsement of the competitive advantage companies can gain through positive social impact.

“NAB’s recognition as one of the 50 companies changing the world reflects the real engagement that NAB has made in driving solutions to societal problems in a way that is profitable, scalable and sustainable,” Yates said.

NAB was among four Australian companies nominated for the list including Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, BHP Billiton and IAG.

GlaxoSmithKline, IDE Technologies, General Electric, Gilead Sciences and Nestlé topped the list of 50 companies.

A total of 200 companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more were nominated by businesses, academic groups and Not for Profit organisations, with the final list determined by Fortune writers and editors based on a measurable social impact, business results and the degree of innovation.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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