Banks continue their disappearing act

July 20, 2021

Banks have put even more distance between them and their more vulnerable customers by ending cheques.

This leaves disabled people wondering how they can pay bills and withdraw money as bank branches continue to close in cities and towns all over New Zealand.

Cheques have now been consigned to history at ANZ, Westpac, BNZ, Kiwibank, TSB, SBS, Rabobank and The Co-operative Bank, and ASB finishes with cheques on 27 August. Some retailers are also moving away from cash payments.

Disability service providers, including IHC, are in talks with banks to see how disabled people can continue to do their banking as independently as possible.

The key issues were brainstormed at a Banking Issues Forum in March organised through a collaboration between the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN), IHC Advocacy, People First and the Bankers’ Association. One of the more significant issues discussed was the requirement of some banks to have guardianship orders in place for people to be supported to have their own bank accounts.

Disability service providers have become increasingly uncomfortable with the systems that banks have in place to manage people’s money on their behalf. Money-laundering legislation and the prospect of a world without cheques are also creating uncertainty – for providers and banks – resulting in different and changing requirements from bank to bank.

NZDSN Chief Executive Dr Garth Bennie says these are significant issues that require collaboration by banks, customers, service providers and government contract holders. “It’s like the technology has moved too fast for many people,” he says.

“What’s needed is for banks to find a way to identify and meet the needs of customers with learning disabilities, and to provide tailored assistance to these customers.

“It’s complicated and the banks are not allowed to collaborate in the way that we would want them to because of anti-competition rules,” he says.

“We need the Ministry of Health on board as well, because there’s a need to make changes to contracts to enable providers to do things differently.”

Garth says ideally if people need support with their banking there should be a system that triggers a response to verify their credentials – and those of anyone supporting them – and allows them to proceed with their banking. He says the banks acknowledge the challenges for families and support staff, but they need assurances around the risks and the help of service providers with the solution.

“They want certainty around the fact that the person supporting that individual is the real deal,” he says. “Agreeing and getting the details of what needs to be in the banks’ systems to verify the individual and the person supporting them is the tricky thing,” he says.

“The reality is that once the person has a bank card and a process in place to use that, then that person doesn’t really need to go back to the bank that often.”

Service providers are now working with the Ministry of Health on a template or set of guidelines to take to the banks.


Photo credit: Aneta Pawlik – Unsplash