What corporates can do right now to create stronger, more inclusive communities
7 October 2020 at 7:00 am
Small changes can make a big difference, writes Beyond Bank’s national community development manager Kylie Daniels.
If ever there was a time to look at the value, the real, tangible value of inclusive, connected communities, it would have to be now.
The pandemic that is COVID-19 has changed almost everything: the way we live, the way we work, the way we interact with each other.
But those changes, as difficult and distressing as they have been, have thrown the spotlight on what we are doing right and also, where there is room to improve to ensure that our communities, our cities, our regional towns stay strong, connected and inclusive as we navigate our way through the current uncertainty.
At Beyond Bank Australia, over the course of our 60-year history, community has always been at the centre of our thinking. It’s one of the great benefits of being customer-owned because this mutual way of doing business, where our customers are also our owners, instinctively keeps us connected with our local communities.
Over time, we have become almost embedded in the DNA of local communities and it is this profound link that informs our day-to-day decision making, our short-term goals and our longer-term strategies too.
It also keeps us on our toes, pushing us to be flexible in responding and sometimes, reshaping our core business to meet ever-changing customer needs and demands.
A great example of this has come through our partnerships with key disability service providers around the nation.
Not long ago, some of these providers threw down a challenge. They told us that banking services needed to adapt to become more inclusive for people living with a disability.
The branch experience and the way we communicated needed to be changed and changed quickly.
We accepted the challenge.
Starting in our Canberra Civic branch, we decided to change up a few things. We softened the lighting and changed the acoustics to make the environment less overwhelming for those with sensory issues.
We adjusted the font and size of our signage and, where we could, opted for symbols rather than words for those who struggle with language.
We changed the carpet colour and the surfaces of bench tops to make it less confronting for those with dementia or autism.
And we lowered teller counters to make banking a little easier for people with physical impairments and for ease of wheelchair access.
Small changes but from the feedback we have received, they have made a very big and very positive impact in ensuring that banking is inclusive for everyone.
Indeed, it has been so successful, we are now busy transforming another branch in Glendale, New South Wales, which will open later this month.
Importantly, an unexpected benefit has also been the way in which our staff have reacted.
Without fail, they have not only stepped up to the challenge, but every day when they come to work, they can see that they are having a really positive impact on the lives of others. It’s the ultimate win, win.
More recently, we have funded a significant national research project, conducted by Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice, to explore the ways in which modern-day banking is meeting the needs of people living with autism.
The study revealed some sobering data.
Almost 80 per cent of people living with autism struggle with their financial wellbeing. Nearly two thirds find bank branches intimidating and half of autistic adults want more support from their banks. The majority of respondents reported difficulty in filling out bank forms and understanding brochures.
Doesn’t sound that inclusive does it?
Yet, just like the disability-friendly bank branch, it is not that difficult to become inclusive, with the report recommending some simple changes to make banking easier.
Changes like having a bank staff member act as an autism “champion” to assist with everyday transactions, and nominating some “quiet hours” so that people can visit a branch when there is less foot traffic and noise.
Again, small changes, big differences.
As we come out of 2020 and move to a better future, a future where we start to grow and prosper again, corporates need to rise to the challenge to make sure no one is left behind.
Beyond Bank partners with over 4,000 like-minded community organisations that share the values and purpose to change people’s lives. Find out more about Beyond Bank here.
About Beyond Bank Australia
Beyond Bank has over 245,000 customers, $6 billion in assets under management and more than 40 branches in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, ACT and Victoria (through its merger with Nexus Mutual).
As one of Australia’s largest customer-owned banks, Beyond Bank partners with more than 4,000 community organisations around the nation and was the first bank in Australia to achieve B Corp certification, a global movement of companies and organisations that use business as a force for good.
For more information please visit www.beyondbank.com.au