Sustainability & Community
- Putting our customers first
- Responsible banking
- Responsible lending
- Government Guaranteed Deposits
- Guidelines on family law proceedings
St.George has built its reputation on its support for customers and the communities in which it operates. We continually seek to improve our products and services for customers and to identify issues that are important to the community so we can respond appropriately.
Continuous dialogue with stakeholders is essential to ensure we stay informed about emerging trends and current issues. To that end we obtain stakeholder views through consultative councils, committees and forums, online feedback, research and by tracking complaints.
In recent times financial hardship, fees and rates, customer service and responsible banking have been identified as broader material issues. However, we are currently engaged in an exercise that will give us a more comprehensive understanding of these and other issues of importance to the people from whom we draw our support. We are doing this through stakeholder mapping, research, peer reviews, interviews with executives and by surveying employees who have volunteered to champion sustainability at work.
Putting our customers first is not simply an empty slogan. We express this commitment in a range of practical ways:
Customer security: We protect customers against fraud by providing leading-edge, industry standard technology and processes. Our advanced computer systems are designed to detect potentially fraudulent transactions.
Accessibility of our services: We are committed to ensuring accessibility for our customers and strive to design our products and services in a way that the whole community can access. As part of the Westpac Group, we support the Group's Accessibility Action Plan.
Helping hearing and vision impaired customers: We provide a variety of accessibility options for hearing-impaired customers: text telephone (TTY) facilities, links to the National Relay Service and access to interpreters through various state organisations. For our vision-impaired customers, our internet banking service is compatible with screen reading software, and a large number of our ATMs are equipped with tactile keypads and text-to-voice capability.
Discounted banking for community groups: We offer a range of products for people with special needs, including discounted banking for pensioner account holders, physically and mentally disabled customers, students, concession cardholders and not-for-profit organisations, plus specialised services for rural customers.
Multi-lingual ATMs: By installing Korean, Italian, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese options in our ATMs throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia we've made certain language is no barrier for the vast majority of our customers.
Resolving complaints quickly and fairly: Because customer feedback allows us to continually improve our service, we encourage open lines of communication, invite customers' suggestions for improvement and have established procedures for registering a complaint.
Award-winning products: Our efforts to provide customers with the best possible service and the greatest range of products have been recognised. Here's a list of some of the awards we've won recently.
What does responsible banking mean for St.George? First, it covers how we educate our customers and the community about financial literacy to help them to understand and manage their finances. Second, it's about the policies and practices we have in place to demonstrate that we are responsible in the way we lend money.
In Touch With Money: Improving financial literacy for all Australians is a priority area for St.George. In Touch With Money is a new program we are piloting to enable consumers, particularly young people, to gain basic money management skills.
SENSE: One of the best ways to master budgeting and saving is to put good habits in place. That's what the St.George SENSE account aims to do. It's a budget and savings account that's designed to help customers manage their money better. The two accounts – the Savings Everyday Transaction account and SENSE Savings account – are combined on one easy-to-read statement each month. You can set savings targets, establishing how much and how often you want to transfer money from your transaction account into your savings account. The monthly statement comes with helpful charts which group transactions into expense categories, compare what your money is doing every month and track your savings progress. In April 2010 SENSE won the Canstar Cannex Award for Innovation Excellence and in June it was awarded the Innovative Retail Banking Product of the Year at the Australian Banking + Finance Awards.
Customers facing financial hardship: The St.George Assist team finds solutions for customers facing financial hardship. The team assesses the situation and provides information and solutions to help customers manage their financial obligations with us. All options are considered, and a solution is tailored to suit each customer's individual needs. These options are presented to the customer, who chooses which option will best improve his or her current and future financial position.
We also help to provide support to individuals and families in financial crisis through our financial support to the Wesley Mission Credit Line consumer education program. The program provides guidelines for managing money, including common financial pitfalls to avoid.
Materials are provided to community groups and are available on the Wesley Mission Credit Line website.
There's no doubt that we're witnessing a wider social change in the way people borrow and save. We acknowledge our obligation to market our products responsibly and stay in touch with the customer and community expectations.
As part of the Westpac Group, we comply with ‘Our Principles for Doing Business' which form the bedrock of our commitment to responsible lending. The Principles can be found on the website of our parent company, the Westpac Group.
We seek to lend only what our customers can afford to repay.
This means that as well as our own credit assessment policies we comply with relevant legislation, Code of Banking Practice, and relevant guidelines published by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
It also means we follow a strict loan criteria process. We use credit scoring, credit reference agency checking and affordability verification to make a full assessment of a person's capacity to repay. We allocate credit authority based on skills and experience and give customers the information they need to make confident financial decisions.
We market our products and services responsibly.
We're committed to acting with integrity. We follow ethical and legal selling practices and give customers information that helps them make informed decisions about our products and services. We only offer credit card limit increases to customers on the basis of strict eligibility criteria and ensure all these offers come with an affordability statement, clarity on the new minimum payment required and options to lower existing or new credit limits. As a matter of policy, we exclude customers who receive government benefits as their sole income, those with a poor repayment history and those who've opted out of unsolicited contact. We continually monitor our credit assessment processes.
We support customers facing financial difficulty.
This means we encourage customers facing financial difficulty to talk to us directly. We treat every case individually and assist people to gain access to local, fee-free and independent financial counselling services. We encourage open discussion of issues and accept responsibility for managing issues that arise. This includes taking personal accountability for resolving issues that are brought to our attention.
Moreover we proactively contact customers who may be experiencing financial difficulty in managing their credit cards. And we provide relief to customers in difficulty as a result of natural disaster. This relief includes deferred payments, discounted refinancing and interest penalty waivers. We also offer deferred payment options (repayment holidays) for customers to help them deal with changing circumstances.
We help to improve our stakeholders' financial literacy and capability.
This means we're committed to providing public access to our money management, budgeting, saving, risk and spending educational materials. Those who can access these materials include schools, business and community groups. We are committed to giving people with disabilities, those living in remote locations and those from non-English speaking backgrounds access to our products and services.
We also support improved financial literacy and access to finance for the Indigenous community with our parent company's participation in programs such as the Indigenous Banking Reference Group and the Australian Financial Inclusion Network.
Financial Claims Scheme for Authorised Deposit-Taking Institutions
The Financial Claims Scheme (FCS) is the Australian Government’s guarantee on deposits and is administered by APRA. The FCS guarantees deposits, up to a cap, held in Australian banks, building societies and credit unions (Authorised Deposit- taking Institutions or ADIs). It protects depositors by giving them quick access to their funds if an ADI becomes insolvent.
From 1 February 2012, the FCS guarantees deposits up to a cap of $250,000 per account-holder, per ADI. Special provisions apply to term deposits which existed on or before 10 September 2011.
The FCS applies to deposits held in Westpac Banking Corporation, including its Divisions - St.George Bank, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, and those branded RAMS.
Like to know more?
- Visit APRA
- See APRA Financial Claims Scheme FAQs
- Alternatively, you can call APRA on 1300 55 88 49 (if calling from within Australia) or +61 2 9210 3480 (if calling from outside Australia).
We recognise the difficulties for anyone, especially our customers, when they are involved in family law proceedings. Where those proceedings involve matrimonial property or financial obligations, those proceedings may involve us as your bank.
For example, where you have joint debts (such as credit cards, personal loans and home loans), and a jointly owned matrimonial home, the court may order us to release one of you from a joint debt. When the court makes such an order it will take into account our views on each spouse's individual capacity to repay the debt, and may seek further information on this from us.
If we receive such an order we will where appropriate, 're-originate' the debt. This means that if for example you have a home loan account in both of your names, that loan account may be closed, at which point the spouse who will be solely responsible for the debt will need to apply for a new replacement loan in his or her name only.
Alternatively in some circumstances the existing joint loan account may be able to be transferred into one of your names.
In circumstances where a court does not make such an order on the bank, and you want to transfer a joint debt into only one of your names, you will need our consent. Even if you both agree that only one of you will be responsible to repay the debt, we still have the right to require either or both of you to repay it (except of course where we have agreed to the change to who is liable to repay the debt or, a court has ordered us to relieve one of you of your obligation to repay the debt).
Guidelines for parties involved in family law proceedings
These guidelines aim to assist you with:
- Understanding what will happen if a court makes an order concerning a joint debt
- Applications for transfers of mortgage and consents to transfer of title
- Understanding how we enforce debts affected by a family law property settlement.
- The guidelines will assist you (our customers), your legal advisers and your representatives who may be involved with family law property proceedings. That may include agreements for division of property owned by you as a married couple, the division of your joint property that is subject to a mortgage to us, or of any other debts or liabilities you may jointly or individually owe to us.
In the guidelines, when we refer to a liability to us, we are referring to the liability to us of a borrower and/or of a guarantor:
- Guidelines Part A - For parties where the court has made an order on the bank
- Guidelines Part B - For parties where no court order has been made on the bank and the parties wish to transfer a debt into one name.