Thoughts on the post-Hayne banking state of play.


Ever had flowers from your bank manager? Well, just the other week my family did – and it set us wondering.

After decades of running down local branch networks while shovelling retail business into call centres, online services and virtual assistants, are the major banks beginning to see face-to-face banking as at least one way of humanising their relations with customers?

After their reputational trashing at the hands of the Hayne royal commission last year, it’s clear the big four banks need as a matter of priority to mend fences with retail customers.

And a sensible place to start the reconciliation process, it seems to us, is at the branches, the one place they regularly deal face-to-face with clients.

We had a home robbery last month – the second in three years – and, as we do our insurance through Westpac as well as our banking, my husband walked up the road to the local branch to get some help lodging the claim.

When he returned the next day with some additional detail for the claim, the personal banking officer went out the back and returned with her branch manager and a bouquet of flowers.

The manager said: “We know you and your wife are having a hard time with the robbery, please accept these from our staff, with our best wishes.”

We don’t know if this is a bank-wide approach or a local initiative – the manager and the banking officer are smart young women – and we do understand that no amount of flowers will solve all the Big Four’s problems.

But we’ll remember this flower arrangement in a way that we won’t any of Westpac’s promotions or those of competitors trying to coax our business.

In the harsh post-Hayne climate, when customer trust and goodwill are scarce, the big banks need more of this kind of ground-level thinking.