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Banks fuel inflation with customer debt targets

Media Release
Finsec, the finance workers' union

Wednesday 9 November 2005

For immediate release

BNZ, Westpac fuel inflation with customer debt targets

Contrary to comments by BNZ Managing Director, Peter Thodey, to the media this morning, and Westpac Chief Executive, Ann Sherry, last week, the current ‘very competitive mortgage market’ in New Zealand is not ‘healthy for consumers and providers alike’. Nor is it simply a result of ‘people’s fixation on bricks and mortar’.

Finsec, the union for finance workers, agrees with the Reserve Bank Governor who last week argued that banks are pressuring inflation through their lending practices. The major banks are driving inflation and attempting to grow their market share by imposing ever increasing sales targets on their staff.

Finsec’s Campaigns Director, Karen Skinner, said “Banks often compel staff to focus on up-selling products to customers. Customer service can be sacrificed for sales as targets are incrementally raised to cover understaffing and grow the banks’ market share. These sales targets stand in contradiction to Peter Thodey’s and Ann Sherry’s claims that they are only responding to customer demand.”

In one of the major banks sales staff are set a target of 10,320 points per year. They get 12 points for every $10,000 of home loans on a variable interest rate that they sell but only 3 points for every $10,000 of term investments.

In another of the banks service employees are set a target of 8,575 points per year. They get 10 points for opening a new account but they get an extra 25 points for selling a credit card. Sales staff there are required to get 13,305 points. They get 5 points for every $10,000 of home loans they sell and 5 points for every $1,000 of personal lending.

“These targets are putting increasing stress in bank workers and on their customers alike. Now they are also placing stress on the New Zealand economy. Why are staff paid incentives to get customers into more debt, and why is it if they don't sell enough their job can be threatened?” said Ms Skinner.

ENDS

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