Banks and bankers: why do we shoot the messengers?


Before modern communications, messages were often delivered by hand, with envoys sent from one camp to another. If the message was unwelcome, the receiver might blame and even kill the messenger, who was little more than a foot soldier obeying orders.

Have we not moved on in the last century?

In the last few weeks, Roy Morgan Research has issued three reports relating to the finance industry. Australians give good ratings to banks and institutional super funds, but not to the people who work in them.

An ongoing pattern is that satisfaction with banks and superannuation funds is high while bank managers and financial planners have low ratings for ‘ethics and honesty’. The employees in these positions are not setting policies or defining corporate cultures. Those come from many pay grades higher. Retail super funds are overwhelmingly sold through financial planners, but we don’t rate financial planners highly. Bank financial planners sell from Approved Product Lists, operate under tight Statements of Advice, and have limited discretion over the advice. Bank managers have little power and try their best to deliver a service to their clients.

Why do we like the institutions and dislike their foot soldiers?

1. Satisfaction with financial performance of superannuation funds

Since this survey began in October 2002, industry funds have outrated retail funds, but they have switched places in the last six months. Both are well up since the start of the survey, especially retail funds, although the fact they took a battering around the GFC shows the ratings are often a reflection of the overall market.

Roy Morgan believes retail funds are more sensitive to market performance, improving strongly when the ASX rose 48% between 2012 and 2015. Retail funds hold a big lead for balances under $100,000, while in the larger balances, especially over $700,000, industry funds are the winners. Norman Morris, the Industry Communications Director at Roy Morgan, said of the rise of retail among lower value clients:

“This is possibly due in part to the introduction of the no-frills, low-cost MySuper products over recent years which appears to be mainly impacting on the less engaged, lower value customers who didn’t actively select an investment option but are now more satisfied with their returns.”

Not shown on the chart are SMSFs, way ahead with a satisfaction rating over 76%. I guess it’s easy to rate yourself highly when the markets have done well.

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2. Consumer banking satisfaction – big four banks

It’s widely believed that Australians love to hate banks. High CEO salaries, exorbitant profits, out-of-cycle mortgage rate increases, terrible deposit rates. But while the approval ratings are off their highs, they are significantly higher than long-term averages, with CBA under Ralph Norris streaking it between 2006 and 2012. Anyone who was subject to his ‘Sales & Service’ regime (which annoyingly for many non-retail executives, put everyone in the bank through the same service programme – hard to get FX dealers interested in ‘customer service’ at a 7am training session!). Generally, mortgage customers rank banks below non-mortgage customers, but the chart shows every bank has improved markedly over time.

3. Image of the professions

This survey asks whether certain professions are rated ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for ‘ethics and honesty’. Health professionals have always done best, especially nurses and doctors. Good to see the big improvers are school teachers, up 4% in the last year. Not an easy or well-paid job. Engineers have continued a steady rise, from 53% in 1976 to 80% in 2017. Police are also at a record high.

2017 Image of the Professions, Roy Morgan Research

Graphs sourced from multiple Roy Morgan Media Releases, June 2017.

But the finance professions are lagging, in some cases sadly. Accountants do reasonably well at 50%, and have led the way among finance professions for 26 years. Bank managers have improved 3% to 33% in the last year, but it’s still a miserable score and way down from the revered years of the 1970s. Financial planners have been around 25% since their introduction to the survey in 2011, while stockbrokers hit a new record low at 11%. As they don’t receive as much media criticism as financial planners, why are brokers so unloved? Not surprisingly, ministers of religion are also at an all-time low.

The long-term trend in the finance industry is for the institutions to improve satisfaction and their employees to decline. It doesn’t stop there – sit in any bank call centre and you’ll hear how badly the public treats the real foot soldiers.

Graham Hand is Managing Editor of Cuffelinks.

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8 Responses to Banks and bankers: why do we shoot the messengers?

  1. Frank June 15, 2017 at 12:40 PM #

    The ABA and banks love to quote that Roy Morgan bank satisfaction rating, but I’ve always wondered whether ‘satisfied’ is really much of a test, especially when people are ‘satisifed’ with their general banking arrangements (transaction account, ATM, etc) even when not satisfied with bank behaviour.

  2. kevin June 17, 2017 at 5:17 PM #

    The banks fund my retirement but most of the time I spend arguing with them.

    My margin loan runs out on 25 june,I need to pay the interest in advance on or before that date.Mission impossible.

    They send me the forms to fill in early May.Fill the forms in,then I have to download the form to tell them which account to take the money out of.That loses me I am not computer literate.

    Call them up,explain the problem,can I not just write on the form the account number number to take the money out of. Of course not,that is too easy.

    They try to tell me they have come up with far easier ways than that.Download this ,attach a PDF to something else ,take away the number you first thought of and it might work.

    Can I not just put the account number on the form and get my local branch of Westpac to fax or e-mail the whole thing over to you.NO.

    Go into my local branch of Westpac,explain the problem.Nobody is qualified for margin lending.They don’t know anything about it.The manager decides he will give it a go.BT don’t talk to Westpac branches,chinese whispers etc.

    90 mins passes,the bank manager talking to BT live on the phone.Doing things that BT tell him to do.There you go he says,not that difficult really.90 mins just to tell them to take money out of a Westpac account,that is ridiculous.The bank manager is a good bloke.I tell him I will be back because call centres are really bad. All solved he says,no worries.

    That was 10 days ago.I get an e-mail from BT margin lending on Friday telling me I am running out of time to roll over this loan.Connect to this that and the other link.Download a PDF or something ,download a form to tell them which account to take the money out of and it is getting very urgent that I do this.Fill the form in,send it back to them in a PDF or something.

    XXXXXX (my account number for the M/L).

    $500K (the loan)

    4.8% the interest rate.

    YYYYYYY (the account number to take the money out of).

    According to them that is far too complicated for them.Working out 5x 4.8 is too complicated for them.I have to do all the working out,easy for me.

    This has been going on since around the middle of May,trying to tell them take the money out of this account.

    I wish they would ring me up and ask how happy I am with the service.Back to the bank manager next week with a good chance of ending up in legal action when I lose the tax deduction,because they are trying to make it as easy as possible for me to pay the interest in advance.

    Super funds are just as bad.

    • Rob June 18, 2017 at 1:37 PM #

      You are just with the wrong Bank, Kevin, that’s all.
      I’ve had a margin Loan with Commsec for 15 years and never had a problem.
      I got a phone call from Commsec to ask if I wanted to fix for another 12 months or not, said yes, we agreed a rate, amount and term and it was all done over the phone in less than 10 minutes. No paperwork. No hanging on line to call centre.

    • Simon June 18, 2017 at 5:37 PM #

      Prime example of why people aren’t satisfied with banks. Kevin, you want to use the bank to amplify your potential investment returns with the leverage of a margin loan but are unwilling to educate yourself to make for a simpler process.

      And somehow this is the banks fault?

      Further to this, the bank manager that spent 90 mins of his time will likely bear the brunt of your negative feedback.

      As you can tell, I work in the banking industry and am tired of being made a villain by the likes of Kevin. Myself and the majority of my colleagues enjoy looking after our clients interests and helping them achieve their financial goals. But all of them, myself included, have a few Kevin’s on their portfolio unfortunately.

      • SMSF Trustee June 18, 2017 at 9:25 PM #

        Agree with you Simon. Mind you, the bank probably should have done better DD and KYC before providing a margin loan facility. Plainly he shouldn’t be in such a risky structure in the first place.

      • kevin June 22, 2017 at 2:36 PM #

        Actually I have been in margin lending products for around 28 yrs. Did you understand my post?

        The bank manager was brilliant, always has been, his staff also, great. Cannot fault the service at my local branch.

        In live chat it takes the manager 90 mins to locate the form on the website. The call centre do not know where the form is, thus 90 mins to locate it. You think that is my fault, the mind boggles.

        I can’t ring them to say take the money out of said account. I can’t send them an e-mail saying take the money out of said account. I must fill the form in that nobody can locate.Nobody knows where this form is. My fault of course.

        I can see you work for a bank, the customer is to blame. They can’t take the money out of the same account as last year. Go on tell me again how 90 mins of nobody knowing where to find a form is a simpler process.

    • SMSF Trustee June 24, 2017 at 11:24 AM #

      kevin, I apologise for jumping to a conclusion about your level of experience based only on your original post. Your clarification seems to me to be saying something different to your first remarks, but still it was wrong to presume from your expression of frustration that you had revealed sufficient information to base a judgment on.
      Since you’ve been in the product so long, are you also saying that the bank has changed its process for paying the interest and concluding your loan? I presume you’ve done it many times before so something must have changed, in which case the bank would appear to have let you down by not being more helpful so that you can manage the change.
      I’m sure that Jane Watts, who runs the Private Wealth division of BT, would like to know what’s happened and make sure that client service standards are lifted.

  3. kevin June 17, 2017 at 5:30 PM #

    OOps I should add Westpac online is my broker.I buy shares, they take the money out of the linked cash management account.Big problem getting that linked.

    They can’t take the money out of that account to pay the interest on the margin loan,it gets more and more ridiculous.The only account I have with them.

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