Westpac’s Hanna: Pacific Well Regulated

As the banking industry in Australia fac­es accusations it ripped off customers, the regional head of a prominent bank believes the Pacific should not be worried. An inquiry conducted by
09 May 2018 11:00
Westpac’s Hanna: Pacific Well Regulated
Kip Hanna, Pacific regional head of Westpac, was in the country recently for the Women in Business awards, which is supported by the bank.

As the banking industry in Australia fac­es accusations it ripped off customers, the regional head of a prominent bank believes the Pacific should not be worried.

An inquiry conducted by a royal commission found financial services organisations in Aus­tralia engaged in deception that could amount to potential fraud.

Kip Hanna, regional head Pacifc of the West­pac Banking Corporation, said the Australian banking industry needed to have a “good, hard look” at how it did certain things.”

But he believes similar issues do not exist in the Pacific.

Mr Hanna, in the country recently to show sup­port for the Women in Business awards, said banks in the Pacific were “fair and well-regulat­ed.”

Westpac has major branches in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Westpac, with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ and the National Australia Bank account for more than three quarters of the country’s banking market.

They are called the “big four,” a name to high­light their power in one of the most profitable banking industries in the world.

But the industry has been hit with accusations that financial institutions gave loans to people who could not afford them, involved mortgage brokers in home loans, charged fees to deceased clients, gave shoddy superannuation advice and more.

Leading banks in New Zealand have also been ordered to prove they were not ripping off their customers by the country’s authorities and Re­serve Bank since the scandal became public, ac­cording to local media reports.

In Fiji, Mr Hanna said Westpac had major immediate and long-term investments plans, which included technological advancements and a stronger emphasis on customer service

He also said tight liquidity in Fiji and its com­petitive market was proving a challenge for the bank, but that they were “holding their own.”

Here is the full interview:

  1. Just to put some persistent rumours to rest, is Westpac withdrawing from the Pacific?

“No, I can say we’re not; we are committed to the Pacific. I’ve heard those rumours too. We have been in the Pacific for over a hundred years, in both Fiji and Papua New Guinea and we continue to be committed to those markets so at this point in time; Westpac is definitely com­mitted to a future in the Pacific.

We are not downsizing at all. We are continu­ally looking at our business model and one of the things we want to do is make our customer experience better for our people.

At the moment, sometimes, the branches are very busy so (we are looking at) how we can improve that experience for our customers in terms of getting them to use digital mobile phone banking, ATMs and other options to make it more convenient for people.”

  1. What is WBC’s return on investment in Fiji compared with, say, Australia and New Zea­land?

“We have a good return on investment. In terms of details, I can’t disclose though because we’re in a financial blackout period with our results. We are happy with our return on investment and we’ll always look at ways of improving how we support our customers.”

  1. What are immediate and long-term plans for Fiji in terms of investment?

“Some of the short-term plans we’ve got for in­vestment in Fiji are quite exciting. We will have later this year a mobile phone banking app avail­able for our customers and that will be based off our Australian and New Zealand model.

“It will have high levels of security, ability to make payments, transfer fund, check balances, make international remittances etc.

That wi ll be a big game changer for our people and our customers to be able to have that app and make transacting a lot easier for them – so that’s a big priority. Second priority is to contin­ue our work on sustainability so we are working strongly on developing more financial inclusion training and awareness.

We provide financial inclusion or financial lit­eracy education for about 15,000 people per year in the Pacific and we will continue to do that. We are also working in the highlands of PNG on what we’re calling our innovation hub and that’s designed to provide banking solutions for people in remote areas who may not have ever had access to the banking system via their mo­bile phones to start being able to transact, being able interact in the financial community and some of those we will be able to introduce to Fiji as well.

(We have planned) more and more technologi­cal advances to make our customer experience better.”

  1. How does WBC’s profit ratio in Fiji compare to your international bench­marks?

“Again, we are in a finan­cial blackout period because our group results are due, so I can’t comment on that. But we are very comfortable with our current returns.”

  1. What are some of your major challenges in the Fi­jian market?

“So the Fijian market is competitive; it’s a very com­petitive market.

Liquidity is tight in the Fiji market at the moment. So that is a challenge in terms of managing that and man­aging the needs of our customers – in terms of their demands of lending and attracting depos­its at the same time. Yeah, those two are prob­ably the main two challenges.

One of the other challenges is the advent of more financial crime that’s creeping into the Pa­cific so we’re making sure we’ve got very robust risk processes, policies and systems to protect against financial crime and anti-money laun­dering.

Financial crime is a worldwide phenomenon and you’re seeing regulators around the world getting tighter and tighter on money launder­ing. We are making sure we’re up to the appro­priate standards in the Pacific to make sure our customers are protected.”

  1. Where do you see the future for growth in the Fijian market?

“I see growth across the board. We bank at the full market – so everything from consumer and retail banking all the way through to SME to commercial and institutional – and i see growth in all of those markets.

Where I see it occurring is probably more in – not necessarily more branches being put out – how we can better serve our customers using digital applications.

Using mobile phones, using contact-less tap and go technologies, we’ve also got new technol­ogies for the tourism sector where we’ve got dy­namic currency conversion where a tourist can pay in whichever currency they wish – they can pay in Fijian dollar or they can choose to pay in Australian (dollars) or New Zealand, wherever they’re from. That allows flexibility for the cus­tomer and flexibility for the vendor and mer­chant as well.

It is advances like that that we see the growth in the banking market.”

  1. How tough is the competition right now in Fiji?

“It’s tough. I wouldn’t say we’re struggling; I’d say we’re definitely holding our own but it is tough. We’ve got to make sure we provide the best customer service; we’ve got to make sure our systems and processes are right and we’ve got to make sure we’re aware of customer trends and needs and make sure that we serve our cus­tomers in the moments that matter for them.

One of the recent examples is the most recent cyclone that occurred in Fiji which was terri­ble and a tragedy for many people. I was really proud of the way the Westpac team immediately rallied behind our customers and got out there on the front foot and started supporting those customers in their time of need.

There was no delay; there was quick response, we provided financial assistance for those cus­tomers in need and I was really proud to see Westpac follow up on such a key event like that.”

  1. Why did you feel the need to personally at­tend the Women in Business (WIB) Awards?

“I’m very passionate about gender diversity; I always have been in my career in terms of mak­ing sure a balance around the table and balance representation.

I think that’s more so important in the pacific environment because sometimes it’s not always equal in terms of gender diversity and equality. So something like this is close to my heart and I’m really proud to work for an organisation that is very passionate about gender equality.

The WIB awards was all about celebrating and recognising women that succeeded in their vari­ous fields. When I heard about it, it was like: I’m getting on a plane and making sure I’m there to be a part of that because it’s something that’s important to me; it’s important to Westpac and it’s important to our sustainability agenda be­cause we will maintain our drive for sustain­ability and we’ve been the world’s most sustain­able bank for the past four years running so it’s something we’re very proud of.”

  1. In terms of human resources, is Westpac facing difficulties in hiring and retaining qual­ity staff?

“We put a lot of time and effort in the train­ing and development of our people all the way through their careers and so we like to retain them for as long as possible because, you know, these are loyal and quality workers.

But that’s getting harder and harder. If other banks are out there tapping our staff on the shoulders and trying to attract them, we’ve got to make sure we retain them.

We’ve got to offer up remuneration that’s rel­evant; we’ve got to offer opportunities for them to advance their careers; opportunities for them to move around within their career – and that’s something at Westpac we are proud about in terms of our secondments – and make sure that we have a culture where people are valued, they can express their opinions and share their views and they are well-respected.”

  1. A recent inquiry revealed Australian finan­cial institutions engaged in deception, driven by greed and fraud. This includes loans to people who could not afford them, involve­ment of mortgage brokers in home loands, charging of fees to dead clients and shoddy superannuation advice among other. What is Westpac’s position on the findings and is a similar inquiry needed in Fiji?

“It’s a very relevant question because it’s front of mind in Australia. I think the banking indus­try needs to have a good, hard look at how we do certain things and I think the banking industry as a whole is doing that.

I think certainly, from Westpac’s point of view, we are making sure our way we treat customers is appropriate, is fair and is reasonable; making sure our processes and behaviours are right and so on.

And so that is no different whether it’s in Aus­tralia or the Pacific, so we’ve got very, very high standards of our conduct and behaviour, and the way our employees engage with our custom­ers in the Pacific and that will be maintained at those highest level.

Do i think there needs to be an inquiry in the Pacific? No, I think the banks are run well here. I think they are fair and well-regulated by the ap­propriate bodies; so no i don’t think there needs to be an inquiry in this point in time.

In terms of customer trust, again it goes back to what I was talking about before about really supporting our customer in those moments that matter; so really understanding our custom­ers and what they needs are: listening to them, working with them and helping them when they need it and being accessible to them at anytime. Maintaining that trust is so important in bank­ing.

To do so, we make sure we deliver high qual­ity service; we make sure our processes and systems are right and we make sure we offer the right products at competitive rates. We keep do­ing all of things and we will maintain that trust for over a hundred years.


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