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Commitment to customers facing financial hardship

Saturday 11 April 2009.

Westpac outlines commitment to customers facing financial hardship

Westpac New Zealand Ltd (WNZL) has announced a set of clear principles that it will apply when assisting all customers facing financial hardship and job losses.

The statement of principles has been discussed with Prime Minister John Key.

Westpac New Zealand Chief Executive George Frazis says the principles reflect much of what is already happening within the bank, and are consistent with Westpac¹s vision and the bank¹s acknowledgment of the role it has in the wider community.

³Westpac New Zealand is absolutely focussed on customers. We have many initiatives in place and have allocated significant resources to dealing specifically with issues around financial stress,² Mr Frazis said today.

³We are determined to work with all our customers ­ consumer, business and agri ­ and to support them as much as we can. Our customers need to know that they can talk to us, and that we will be there with help and advice.

³Our commitment to a set of guiding principles related to financial hardship is intended to help reassure all our customers, not just those facing job insecurity, that they are treated to the highest standards of care and attention in difficult circumstances.²

Westpac¹s commitment to financially stressed customers outlines tailored assistance options such as: € Providing interest-only repayment options; € Extending the period of a loan contract; and € Postponing for a period of up to 12 months loan payments due under contract (with interest to be capitalised into the loan).

Westpac stresses that postponing loan payments for any period will increase debt, and therefore may not be suitable for many borrowers. Westpac will work with borrowers to determine the most appropriate assistance option in light of the borrower¹s individual circumstances.

Mr Frazis said that Westpac in New Zealand had been active in putting in place processes for addressing financial stress faced by customers.

In early 2007 Westpac established a Financial Solutions Team that has helped nearly 8,500 customers struggling with their financial commitments. As the impact of the recession became more obvious in the New Zealand context, Westpac established an Œearly action¹ programme to identify and contact customers showing signs of financial pressure. In the last financial year Westpac New Zealand spent over half a million dollars on its financial literacy programme. It has 21 trained and active Managing Your Money facilitators, leading workshops around New Zealand.

Westpac's aim is to encourage 4,000 people to participate in its on-line financial capability tutorial and for 1000 people to attend its financial literacy workshops this year. This is consistent with the commitment made by Westpac at the Prime Minister¹s Job Summit in February.

³The most important action that can be taken in times of hardship is for customers to talk with their bank early, and that is what Westpac wants to encourage,² Mr Frazis said.


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