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Banks hire more staff to satisfy customers

Banks hire more staff to satisfy customers

Banks have got the message that although customers may be “going electronic” , they still like dealing with people, KPMG’s annual banking and finance survey finds.

Releasing the 18th annual KPMG Financial Institutions Performance Survey, the firm’s Banking and Finance Group Chairman, Andrew Dinsdale said the survey records the first significant increase in the number of bank employees in a number of years.

Mr Dinsdale said staff employed by the registered banks grew by almost 4 percent or 840 people during the year. And the increase wasn’t entirely attributable to the expansion of Kiwibank which last year reversed the decline in bank branch numbers.

“The majority of this growth is attributable to the major banks and Kiwibank. ASB Bank, which prides itself on its levels of customer service, led the way with an increase of 211 employees over 2002.

“This is due to the general growth in the bank’s business. Employees have been added across most business units. ANZ’s increase in headcount stems from an increase in front line staff numbers within the branches as the bank continues to focus on customer satisfaction.

“I think we can say with some certainty that banks have got the message that customers like to be able to deal with real people when they carrying out their banking transactions.”

Kiwibank increased staff by just over 100 while all the major banks recorded increases, the smallest being Westpac with 57.

“This year, we have seen further growth in branch numbers and the extension of operating hours to include weekends as banks align their opening hours with the general retail community, especially where branches are situated in shopping malls.”

Mr Dinsdale said New Zealand continues to be a leader globally in the penetration of electronic banking as the country evolves towards a cash-less society. He said that of all payments made in 2003, 88 percent were made by electronic means.

“Banks place great importance on the performance of their technology and invest substantial amounts of time and money in order to stay at the cutting edge.”

EFTPOS remains the most popular method of payment. The number and value of transactions continues to expand. In 2003, the total number of transactions increased by almost 15 percent, reaching 670 million. The total value of the transactions was $36.3 billion.

“Interestingly, there has been an 11 percent decline in the number of credit cards on issue, although no slow-down in transaction activity. The decline is likely to reflect the fact that people are holding fewer cards but banks are allowing customers higher limits.”

Mr Dinsdale said cheques now represent only 12 percent of all transaction methods, a remarkable decline given that as late as 1997 they were the preferred transaction method.

“It seems only a matter of time before cheques find themselves watching the banking sector from the stands, reminiscing about the days when they were the major players,” he said.

The survey notes that the University of Auckland survey records 60 percent of internet users have signed up for internet banking, up from 49 percent in 2002. It records the major frustration within the industry being security issues around internet banking, with customers of a number of banks being the target of attempts to secure account details and passwords.

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