“It has been a very big year - a year that has put bank conduct and culture squarely into the spotlight. The way customer complaints are managed, both inside and outside of banks, is deeply grounded in conduct and culture. There are real and important changes afoot and there is more to be done,” says Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden.
“We’ve seen this coming through in our cases. We’ve had more cases (up 21 percent), and they are more complex.”
“We have continued to make an impact by sharing more lessons from our cases, following up on systemic issues, strengthening our consumer and industry engagement, and engaging in a large number of policy initiatives to share a consumer perspective.”
“Banks came under closer scrutiny this year in the wake of the Australian royal commission into banking and reviews by New Zealand regulators. We said we had not seen the same type of systemic abuse in the cases we see, but we know we only see the tip of the complaints iceberg. We have therefore begun developing a dashboard which will bring together complaints data from our cases and the banks. This is due to go live in mid 2020.”
Themes from our cases
“We put a specific focus on financial inclusion and vulnerable customers in the last year, working with other agencies to make a number of important changes including, streamlined processes for financial mentors helping bank customers, a review of hardship processes within banks and a cross-sector safer credit strategy.”
“A related theme that came through was the difficulties older and disabled consumers can experience as they navigate their banking. For example, we profile the case of ‘Sophie’ in our summary annual report. Sophie had difficulties reclaiming control of her finances after she had recovered from a stroke and no longer wanted her grandfather to look after her affairs.”
“We have seen a 136 per cent increase in cases involving powers of attorney compared to our last financial year.”
“We also saw a huge increase in cases involving scams over the last year (118 percent). This prompted us to initiate a fraud awareness campaign on TV, radio and social media. We marketed the campaign through banks, stakeholders and our own channels reaching 2 million TV viewers, 2 million radio listeners and 800,000 social media users.”
“Even with the increased demand on our scheme, we have continued to deliver a timely and responsive service.”
“Only 4 per cent of the cases went all the way to a formal investigation. This is positive as it means the rest of the cases were resolved fairly, simply and speedily. This is a good outcome for customers - which is reflected in our high levels of customer satisfaction.”
“We are pleased that people know about us and find us easy to use. Our website users and online complaint channels both increased by 43 per cent. We were the second most well-known dispute resolution scheme in MBIE’s two-yearly survey (after the Disputes Tribunal). And we raised the financial limit for our scheme from $200k to $350k which will make our service accessible to an even wider range of people.”
“We are looking forward to another exciting year ahead for the scheme. We will continue to develop the data dashboard and share enhanced data and insights with banks so they can pass those improvements back to their products and services. We will be regularly engaging with banks at the most senior levels to influence positive change.”
The annual report can be read here.
Please attribute all comments to Nicola Sladden, Banking Ombudsman