Westpac, Australia’s fourth-largest bank, has kicked off a major
advertising campaign designed to position itself as a socially
responsible bank. The campaign comes at a time of significant
change in the Australian market (see RBI
, 577)
and in the same
month that rival ANZ’s latest ads also highlight its credentials as
a global leader in sustainability (see
Unifying UniCredit

To cement its more responsible agenda, Westpac has also
established a business unit called Westpac Assist, the centrepiece
of its new responsible lending principles.

The ad campaign will aim to promote Westpac’s message about
sustainability and its related banking products, such as
environment-focused green home loans and savings accounts that are
tied to sustainable farming initiatives.

The ads, developed by media agency The Campaign Palace, have been
created to demonstrate that the bank’s future success is tied to
the future prosperity of its customers, employees, the wider
community and the environment. The campaign, entitled Your Future
is Our Future, began on 17 September with TV ads on Australian
network Channel Seven and will be supplemented by a series of print
and outdoor advertisements until the end of October.

“This campaign launch reflects Westpac’s strong internal values and
the win-win benefits we are delivering to customers and other
stakeholders by taking a leadership position on sustainability.
Never before has the importance of sustainability resonated so
strongly with our stakeholders,” said Susan Nixon, the bank’s
general manager, consumer marketing.

Westpac – a past winner of RBI’S Award for the Best
Integration of Corporate Social Responsibility in Retail Banking –
has blazed something of a trail among major banks by flagging up
its corporate social responsibility credentials in its branding and
marketing. One of the bank’s ads last year focused on its support
for the Equator Principles, which are basic guidelines for
responsible project financing published by the World Bank and its
International Finance Corporation.

The creation of the new Westpac Assist unit forms part of the
bank’s commitment to promote responsible lending. Initially, the
division will contact credit card customers who are showing signs
of repayment stress and offer solutions to assist them in managing
their debt. It will also handle calls from customers who are
experiencing financial difficulties, including those seeking
temporary assistance on repayments.

“This new initiative is all about early prevention and providing
our customers with the assistance and right information to help
them regain control of their finances,” said Mike Pratt, the bank’s
group executive, consumer financial services.

Westpac has also reduced a number of its bank charges, such as
cutting the fee for bouncing a cheque from A$25 ($22) to A$10 and
cutting its account overdrawn fee from A$20 to A$10 for its basic,
student and youth account customers.

The bank has restated its commitment to lending to customers no
more than they can afford to repay. “The lending principles guide
Westpac’s efforts to improve financial literacy and enhance
education to help them secure a stronger financial future and
develop a more sustainable relationship with their bank,” said
Pratt. He also said the bank had improved its credit scoring
process and improved some analytics for assessing the debt
servicing capacity of credit card and home loan customers.