Oh Westpac!

My choice in bank had always left me a little uneasy (in the same sort of way as when I buy individually wrapped snacks). I have always had this sense that not-for-profit organisations and the socially aware bank with Westpac. Sure there are not as many ATMs, but they do their thing, do not spend a massive amount on television advertising and any advertising is not based around promoting the crazy hours they expect their branch managers to work.

Now Westpac, thanks to the rate increase and then this video supposedly explaining the rise, have managed to hit the ‘hip pocket nerve’ and tell people that they are stupid. Here bank customers can feel like they are being taken advantage of and being spoken down to and journalists have something other than Copenhagen to write about this week.

Just like everybody became something of an expert on the significance of mortgage rates whenever the Howard government needed to garner more support, we are all rather well versed on The GFC (because we do not even call it The Global Financial Crisis anymore). The GFC was not the result of a storm*, it was the result of the way the system operates.

It seems to me that Westpac and the government both sought to engage in a bit of splitting and projecting. The government and Westpac both need a level of public support. People can change their vote at the next election and they can move their mortgage and/or savings to a different bank. The criticism of Westpac by both Federal and State governments can be seen as governments seeking to separate the rate rises from the regulation that they are accountable for. Westpac’s video seems to try to say, ‘don’t blame us, we are the ones that really care, just there was this storm that did not have anything do do with us.’ It is going to be easier for the public to side with the government than Westpac on this one. The bank gives us a villain while Westpac gives us only a weather simile.

Returning to my own discomfort about banking, when Westpac ATMs started to pop up everywhere I really felt that I had no excuse to be banking with ANZ. In my opinion, ANZ have nothing warm and fuzzy about them, especially since they have just re-branded (and so would have spent a stack of money doing so) and they have ripped out my closest ATM to work and the one at my local shops. However no bank is benevolent and so my options are to give up all paid work and use of money, join some sort of super local co-op or just live with this guilt.

I think the larger question which is raised by all of this is, why do ‘people’ (or at least banking Australians) feel like they need to ‘win out’ and at the same time to feel smarter than the average person?

* Sure, you could argue that the 2006 banana crop was affected by an risk that is part of the system (weather). Perhaps we can have this argument next time we meet?


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