If you’re a typical Australian, chances are your banking journey began with a yellow Dollarmites envelope. Fast forward to 2018 and you’re probably still a Commbank customer, albeit with an ugly af debit card, no free stickers and less cash in your savings account than when you were 10.
Being a Dollarmites kid seemed harmless when the only money you were depositing was from your parents’ pockets. But we’re adults now, faced with high underemployment rates, low wage growth and a house deposit that will take us decades to save towards. Some of us are even sacrificing full meals (not just smashed avo brunches) to cover our rental payments.
We’ve spent years being fucked over by the system, so now it’s time to fuck it back. And the best place to start is where you keep your money.
46% of Aussies who chose to open our first bank account with Commbank have never left. And while we suffer from financial stress, the Big 4 have reaped the benefits, approximately $31.5 billion of it in the last year alone.
Here’s why it’s time to re-evaluate where your money lives.
They’re Out of Date
Westpac is 201 years old, and so is their tech. Want to close your account? You’ll need to drag your ass and identification cards to a branch between the hours of 9:30am to 4pm on a weekday (or, if you’re geographically blessed, a Saturday) or be put on-hold by an automated phone system that assures “your call is very important to us”.
Whilst Australian banks are busy fighting Apple Pay and transfers to bitcoin exchanges, the fintech scene overseas is booming. Since Simple launched its branchless banking service way back in 2009, tech companies like Revolut, Circle and SoFi have made it easier for people to transfer, lend, exchange and invest their money. In fact, 84% of us would happily ditch our traditional bank for a tech giant if they provided better products.
Recent developments, like the open banking review and the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into competition in the financial system, are a step in the right direction. However it’s clear that Big 4 have a long way to go to catch up with the 21st Century.
They’re Out of Touch
Commbank recently ran a competition with Pedestrian.tv to score $200 off your next bill. I’m sorry, $200? For a company that made a record $9.9 billion profit last year, it’s cute that they can afford to support a sharehouse of young adults power an air-conditioner through a climate change-induced heatwave that the coal-loving company contributed towards in the first place.
They were also kind enough to mail me a credit card invite on my 21st birthday (and every 3 months after that). A little bit of research would have told them that our generation are more scared of credit card debt than death or war.
And then there’s the advertising. From branded Tumblr pages, hashtag saturated posts to a truly awful Mastercard ad where millennials were hooked up to neural sensors to discover that (gasp) they’d prefer a cup of coffee with their Mum than a blue algae latte, it appears that no amount of money and avocado jokes will help 40 year old ad men truly connect with young people.
They’re Out of Line
Money laundering, rate-rigging, fossil fuel funding…and these are the issues not covered by the banking Royal Commission. For an industry so strongly associated with consumer trust, the Big 4 Banks continue to find ways to mislead and mistreat us.
Just look at the aforementioned Dollarmites program — a lucrative marketing campaign that has been acquiring primary school aged customers under the guise of financial literacy education for almost a hundred years. Or the shonky Westpac Bump Savings campaign to get to babies’ pockets before they’ve even left the freaking womb.
Occasionally the banks will do little PR stunts like axe ATM withdrawal fees or withdraw funding of a coal mine and pat themselves on the back for being so progressive. However these are just band-aids to the bigger issues which continue to threaten our natural environment and financial wellbeing.
The Solution? Put your Money where your Mouth is
As long as you stay with the Big 4, you’ll keep suffering — from super low interest rates on your savings account; sub par technology and customer service; and the knowledge that your money is being invested in unethical, unsustainable things.
And you’ll continue to put up with their bullshit for one of two reasons — you believe it’s too difficult to change or there are simply no viable alternatives. Both of these are wrong.
The future of banking is not a bank. Just like how Uber replaced taxis and Airbnb disrupted tourism, a movement of Australian startups is creating smart, customer-orientated technology designed to transform your relationship with money and put you back in control. And we won’t need to pay a primary school commission to do it.
See what a post-bank future looks like here