The new Code of Banking Practice has been designed for customers to make it easier for them to understand banking products and services, their rights and protections, and importantly, it is written in simple language. This is a new standard that Australian banks must meet, and for the first time, it has been approved by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
I’m pleased to see an increased focus in the Code on inclusivity, accessibility and vulnerable customers. At Suncorp, we have already made progress to meet these new standards, particularly for customers who are in hardship, or at risk of hardship. Last year we worked with Kildonan Uniting Care to better support customers who are vulnerable or facing financial hardship. This gave us a better understanding of the needs of these customers and we are implementing various changes to improve our processes. Our front-line teams have undertaken additional training, we have expanded our referrals to support services, simplified documentation requirements and improved our communication methods. We know these changes are already making a difference and we will continue to refine them as required.
There is also an entirely new section in the Code dedicated to inclusive and accessible banking, as well as a new section for small business, recognising the unique challenges they face in accessing funds, and the complexities of their broader operations. Longer notice periods to customers on changing loan conditions, simplified, easier to understand loan contracts, and more time to arrange alternative facilities are all practical changes that will improve protections for small business, aimed at strengthening our relationships with our customers.
The Code also outlines the rights of the elderly, Indigenous and customers in remote communities and there are new requirements around training, proactive customer communication and the promotion of basic account products. This complements our own initiatives, such as Suncorp’s Financial Inclusion Action Plan, establishment of the Office of the Customer Advocate, and improved hardship practices.
Ultimately, I hope these changes help customers more easily manage their finances, and know that there is help available if they need it. Suncorp is already delivering many aspects of the new Code, and we are committed to implementing it in full over the next year to ensure we consistently deliver on the expectations of our customers.