It’s official: we really, really, really hate the banks
Loathe as I am to use a dirty four letter word a nice family-minded website, here goes ...
To many observers our major banks appear to be engaged in a kind of cruel sport. The rules are obscure but it seems to involve repeated, heavy crash tackles on ordinary people – people with savings accounts, credit cards, home loans, that type of thing. Also kids, debts, bills and other worries. They’re commonly known as bank customers.
It’s as though they’re experimenting to see how many times you have to hit them, how hard and how far below the belt, before they crack and march in their millions on your CBD head office tower with flaming torches to burn your bank to the ground. That’s the impression you’d get from our newspapers this week. Could it be ‘media hype’?
How are we all feeling about this then, really? This week Auspoll asked Australians ‘tell us what you really think about the banks’. And they sure did.
The first thing to note is that three quarters of the 1,500 we surveyed nationwide said they are customers of the ‘big four’ banks. Financial data shows they dominate closer to 90 per cent of market-share in dollar terms.
Secondly, we asked people if banks should be allowed to raise their lending rates outside movements in the official cash rate set by the Reserve Bank (RBA). The noise was fairly deafening. Governments working to assemble reform measures and oppositions surfing this wave of popular sentiment may care to note the size of this wave – it’s Waimea Bay out there!
86 per cent said banks should be prevented from raising rates outside the Reserve’s adjustments.
Thirdly we put four propositions – two expressing negative sentiment toward the ‘four pillars’ and two making a case for them - and asked who agreed with which. Not much comfort for bank executives here.
‘Banks should be able to price their products freely, like other businesses.’ Sounds reasonable but 54 per cent don’t agree, only 29 per cent do and 18 aren’t sure.
‘[Bank competition] delivers the best loan rates, fees and charges to attract customers.’ Again, that’s the theory. Again, 51 per cent don’t buy it. 30 per cent agreed, 19 unsure.
‘Banks are all the same, all putting up rates when the others do to make the most money from customers’. Sound negative? A statistically massive 84 per cent agree and only six disagree.
How about something even more angry and aggrieved?
‘Banks make huge, excessive profits at the expense of their customers’. Oh dear. An overwhelming 89 per cent of Australians agreed with this statement and a puny four (yes four) per cent demurred.
These numbers measure a well-spring of public frustration, financial strain and, let’s be blunt, rage about the practice of banking in Australia today that is quite simply red hot.
In the same survey 30 per cent of people said another rate rise leading into Christmas would put them under so much financial pressure they could either barely cope or would be pushed over the edge all together.
The policy responses to this are complex and the answers aren’t easy. It’s a very thorny political problem for all concerned.
But, on these results, an answer there better be. Before someone gets hurt.
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