Bankwest has formed a “digital banking task force” to assist older, less tech-savvy customers bank safely from home amid coronavirus restrictions.
As branch traffic shrinks due to social distancing directives, freed-up staff across Bankwest’s 93-strong branch network will be deployed to contact an estimated 8,000 customers who frequent branches, are older than 60, and have no history of digital banking.
“Banking is an ‘essential service’ and branches will be open as long as government advice directs, but we also know some customers might be leaving the safety of home when they don’t need to,” said Donna Dalby, Bankwest’s general manager of personal and third party banking, in a release.
“This is about helping those most vulnerable in the current coronavirus situation and making them aware of – and helping them use – options that keep them in the safety of their home,” she said.
Bankwest’s decision is in lockstep with the Department of Health’s latest advice urging older people (70+ years of age, 65+ with chronic medical conditions or 50+ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) to limit physical contact with others, given the greater risk that seniors face of more serious complications if infected with Covid-19.
The bank will make some effort to achieve service continuity for customers largely dependent on in-branch consultations. Dalby highlighted the possibility, based on resourcing arrangements, that a branch employee who contacts an elderly customer could be the same staff member they had previously interacted with in-branch.
Accordingly, the bank pledges that staff will take the time to understand customers’ circumstances, such as whether they use a mobile phone or have internet access, before walking them through convenient alternatives to brick-and-mortar banking – namely, Bankwest Online or the Bankwest Mobile App.
Customers will also be posted physical copies of guidelines to safer banking practices, including Bankwest’s “Safe & Savvy Guide”, a brochure outlining critical steps for seniors to avoid hoaxes, scams, and fraud.
“Bankwest will never ask for a PAN, access code, password, PIN or personal details via email or social media, and when contacted by phone, customers can decline ID checks, or call us back,” the bank stressed.
In research conducted by Australia’s Office of the eSafety Commissioner, of the country’s 8 million individuals aged over 50, little more than 30 per cent were rated with a high level of digital literacy – a figure that decreased markedly with age.
Meanwhile, Bankwest recorded a significant increase in year-on-year logins for its mobile app, with a 17.2 per cent upswing in March 2020 as customers flock to digital channels amid Covid-19 social distancing restrictions.
Notably, the bank in 2018 – ceding to the Big Fours’ market dominance – closed 29 of its east coast branches and doubled down on investments in digital and mobile offerings, later overhauling operations to refocus on innovation and improve product delivery under veteran technologist and long-serving CIO Andy Weir.
The WA-based, CBA-owned bank has since become one of the industry’s leading digital product developers, releasing several ‘industry firsts’ to customers, including a new e-signing loan application service, a cross-platform in-app messaging service, as well as the wildly popular Halo touch payments ring.
Coinciding with the coronavirus-induced shift away from branch banking, APRA’s 2019 Points of Presence statistics revealed 9 per cent of bank branches had shut down nationally since 2018, revealing a wider trend of decreased branch activity resulting from the pandemic.