Australian banks roll out programs to increase financial literacy, access to products

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A National Australia Bank (NAB) logo is pictured on an automated teller machine (ATM) in central Sydney September 12, 2014.
A National Australia Bank (NAB) logo is pictured on an automated teller machine (ATM) in central Sydney September 12, 2014. Reuters/David Gray/File Photo

Banks in Australia are rolling out new programs that seek to help thousands of Aussies increase their financial literacy and improve their access to financial products. The banks aim to deliver significant initiatives such as assistance in setting up bank accounts, budgeting workshops and fast online loans.

A number of Australians, from recently arrived refugees to customers experiencing domestic violence, are benefited from the banks’ rollout of new programs. The latest G20 meeting’s ultimate goal is said to be “financial inclusion.”

Good Shepherd Microfinance spearheaded the most recent G20 meeting. Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO Anna Bligh said at the Financial Inclusion Action Plan Program event that the results showed the trial was successful and was helping thousands of people across Australia.

“Starting a bank account, obtaining a loan for a fridge and other basic financial needs can be foreign to some in our community, such as newly arrived refugees and the long term homeless,” Bligh said. She pointed out that it is important for banks to play their part to ensure that “vulnerable people” obtain the support they need while being included in the financial system.

Bligh added that thousands of the country’s most vulnerable have been assisted through the pilot programs. Westpac, NAB, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Bank Australia and Suncorp were among the banks that run these programs.

Bligh said that it is the goal of the ABA to boost the cooperation between banks on this significant initiative and to consider technology’s role in financial inclusion. Bank Australia and Suncorp have assisted several customers with key results from the trial. “Essentials by AAI” insurance by Suncorp has been taken up by over 1,000 people on low incomes.

Over 600 recently arrived refugees were supported by Commonwealth Bank’s assistance program. NAB’s support made the development and launch of Speckle possible. Speckle offers online cash loans from Good Shepherd Microfinance.

The Westpac Group supports The Salvation Army, which delivers the “You’re The Boss” financial well-being program. It helps those experiencing financial challenges to better manage their money and debt. Nearly 1,800 people attended workshops throughout 2016-17, and 87.5 percent of participants reported making a change.

Bank Australia has run budgeting and savings workshops. MoneyMinded workshops by ANZ reached 49,306 people last year and a further 1,268 completed the program online.

Bligh said that the ABA congratulates the banks that participated and looks forward to the programs growing across the finance sector.