The National Australia Bank grabbed the headlines this week when it ‘divorced’ the other major banks and offered to pay the early exit fees for mortgage customers who dumped CBA or Westpac and came to NAB.
It came after NAB abolished its early exit penalties on standard variable rate mortgages just before Christmas.
While it’s good news about exit fees – the price side of the equation – service is the side of banking that most commentators are not talking about.
You can make a hundred price cuts and the customer notices. But what Australians really want is a system that works for them with good service.
I have to remind people that when I built Wizard Home Loans, we never had the lowest mortgage rate in the market. We offered a generally low rate but we also had good branch service where the manager knew the borrower’s name.
It was about price and service, a combination we’re offering again at Yellow Brick Road.
It’s something Australians care about. I saw this up close last week when I was a guest on MMM network’s morning show.
A caller rang up and told me how he’d switched from NAB to Commonwealth and back again.
But it was his response I found interesting; he’d taken to checking on the Reserve Bank website, to see where the RBA was going with official interest rates etc. And so the service you’d expect from a bank – advice, education, insight about interest rates – he was having to do for himself. Which he was.
The current advertising campaign about exit fees is only one small part of the overall problem with banking.
Two of the big four banks – NAB and ANZ – have abolished exit penalties on their standard variable rate mortgages.
CBA and Westpac have not. In theory, it sets up an experiment: after a period of time, you’d expect customers to go where they are not penalised for leaving. But what if they do? Who’s looking out for them?
Is there a government agency keeping its eyes on this fight? And when the new customers do switch, do their other fees and charges start rising? How many Australian bank customers know exactly what fees will rise when the exit fees come off? And who would they ask?
So what Australians still miss in this system is service, education and advice, regardless of how many ad campaigns publicise their exit fee strategy. Overhauling this system is going to take time – for now, I hope you can get out there and make a great deal, but whatever else you do, don’t even stop asking for good service.
Mark Bouris is the Executive Chairman of Yellow Brick Road, a financial services company offering home loans, financial planning, accounting & tax and insurance. Email Mark on email@example.com with any queries you may have or check www.ybr.com.au for your nearest branch.