Westpac brings banking services to remote communities

Strategy includes face-to-face assistance, specialist call team

Westpac brings banking services to remote communities

Westpac wants to remove barriers to financial inclusion by bringing face-to-face banking services to Australia’s remote communities.

“Essentially, we will go anywhere in Australia that’s remote, if there’s a community that needs our assistance,” said Westpac Indigenous business manager Alinta McGuire (pictured above).

McGuire said the aim of the Westpac remote banking service team’s visits was to remove barriers to financial inclusion often felt in these communities due to geographical distance and language and cultural differences.

Westpac’s remote banking strategy began in 2018 and  the team has made nearly 50 visits to communities in the past year, with plans to make at least 30 visits annually in future  as a commitment in the bank’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

These visits enhance the services that Westpac provides through a specialist call centre dedicated to assisting Aboriginal and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers with services such as setting up phone and internet banking, getting access to cards and sorting out issues such as scams and fraud.

First piloted in 2018, Westpac runs a specialist call centre team called Indigenous Connections that is dedicated to assisting the bank’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers.

It provides support in more than 20 different Indigenous languages spoken by customers particularly those living in remote communities. More than half of its team identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“The remote service program is amazing, but we can’t be there every day,” McGuire said. “Our aim is to support and teach our customers how to engage with the bank using all their self-service options available to them, and to be confident and have trust in the Indigenous Connections team to help them on a daily basis.”

The Indigenous Connections call centre is also called Yuri Ingkarninthi. This means “deep listening” in the language of the Kaurna people, who are the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains of South Australia.

Among the team’s members is Kyah Rahutai-Warren. She recently visited Maningrida with McGuire, a community located 500km east of Darwin in Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land with less than 2,000 people, as part of Westpac’s remote banking strategy.

“I’ve never been to a remote community,” said Rahutai-Warren, who is based in Adelaide. “On the phone we talk to our customers every day and they tell us what’s going on in the community, but to actually be there and see it for yourself is just completely different.”

Maningrida-based financial advisor Cynthia Brown said Westpac’s recent visits have been helpful for the community.

Brown works with the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation, which represents and assists Aboriginal people of the 32 homelands surrounding Maningrida, and provides a money management service in the community including helping people interact with banks.

“A lot of the community members find it hard to obtain ID, which is one of the issues we have to open bank accounts,” Brown said. “Sometimes it’s been hard because they don’t have a phone, and they don’t have an email, so having that help with Westpac is really, really good.”

Brown said a face-to-face service meant community members had a better chance of providing their identity so they could access services.

“That means they don’t have to come to us as much because they’ve got their password and everything they need to do their own [banking],” she said.

Back in Adelaide, Rahutai-Warren said she was excited to share her experiences in Maningrida with her colleagues and had plenty of ideas on how to further improve the way Westpac bank provides services to customers in remote communities.

“Kyah’s just had that wonderful experience,” said Bronwyn Dodd, Westpac national general manager, indigenous banking. “She’s listened to the customer, and she now gets to come back and tell us where the opportunities are for us to make a difference.”