NAB takes considered approach to Indigenous inclusion in banking

  • By Anna Shaw

Indigenous resilience can be built through increasing inclusion in corporate and financial services, according to National Australia Bank head of Indigenous affairs and strategic inclusion Eveanne Liddle.

Liddle was speaking on a panel session run by the Centre for Social Impact.

The discussion was focused on understanding and designing Indigenous financial services, during and post COVID-19, and presented in partnership with the First Nations Foundation.

“The key issues that I think Aboriginal people at quite a high level continue to experience and address is unequal economic participation in the market. There continues to be a disproportionate number of Indigenous people employed in Australia and there continues to be a disproportionate number of Indigenous people who own their own businesses compared to other Australians,” said Liddle.

“The [are] small numbers of Indigenous people who have good financial health and are able to build wealth.

“Having access to finance, understanding the finance system, being able to make informed decisions about money and getting approval for loans”.

The work NAB is doing to approach Indigenous inclusion, explained Liddle, includes the Elevate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which is the eighth RAP NAB has launched, and focusing on key areas, particularly “building the economic participation of Indigenous people in Australia. The way we do that is we invest in financial programs developed by Indigenous people for Indigenous people.

One of the things that some of the banks are doing is actually going out on the ground and visiting these remote communities, Lynda Edwards, Financial Counselling Australia

“We also offer access to no interest loans for Indigenous people through our Good Shepherd partnership across Australia.

“We get a lot of uptake, in that particular example we have at least 20 to 22 per cent of uptake of those loans by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which is great and they don't actually have to come into a bank so they can apply for that funding”.

Liddle also drew attention to the Indigenous Customer Service line, which is a phone number customers can call to speak with people trained to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and who have the extra time to help customers with issues such as being blocked out of their account, not being able to answer an identification question or having a forgotten pin.

Liddle reflected on the value of this service, stating that “just during the COVID period it has been averaging around 230 to 330 calls a month. Sometimes up to 75 calls a week from Indigenous people looking for support”.

Liddle also highlighted the “non-standard banking processes” NAB is offering in allowing customers to open bank accounts when they do not have 100 points of ID, through staff members spending the time talking to customers to authenticate who they are.

We need more of our own mob to be able to understand the system.. we need Aboriginal people working in corporates and in finance who can drive those conversations and take leadership, and then take that information back to community, Eveanne Liddle, NAB

Lynda Edwards, coordinator of financial capability community of practice at Financial Counselling Australia, highlighted some of the key barriers to inclusion for Indigenous people in Australia and reinforced why non-standard banking process can be of value, explaining “the fact that someone [from a bank] can say to someone in a remote community, 'You need to go to your local branch to confirm your identity’, and they have to travel three to four hours to be able to get to a local branch, or they just can’t get there, so they’re actually excluded from a lot of financial products".

“One of the things that some of the banks are doing is actually going out on the ground and visiting these remote communities, and I know that NAB was one of those banks that actually did go out and talk to people on the ground, to be able to get an idea about how their products are working or what’s best for community and you know, for financial services…

“I'm not talking about people who are in the community engagement teams but I'm talking about executives that actually are the decision makers, they need to go out on the ground and talk to people and find out if their products are actually working and if those systems are working,” Edwards said.
A consistent theme throughout the panel was the value of having Indigenous people working in financial services and the corporate sector.

Liddle commented during the session that an issue she sees is “the low representation of Indigenous people working in finance and banking.”

Phil Usher, chief executive officer of First Nations Foundation reinforced this sentiment, highlighting the opportunity for Indigenous wealth building through a “rising middle class that’s sort of coming up, we’re seeing the government push for Aboriginal people to go into employment and they’re going up the ladder in employment as well, they’re not just entry level, they’re going up to middle management, senior management, and for the first time we’re seeing Aboriginal people having a bit more money left over and we don’t have that access to understand what to do with it”.

Liddle highlighted the importance of this and said, “we need more of our own mob to be able to understand the system, to be able to support people to make better choices and mange money better, but also, we need Aboriginal people working in corporates and in finance who can drive those conversations and take leadership, and then take that information back to community”.
 

Anna Shaw is the client insights manager at RFi Group