Westpac’s plan to help excluded Thrive

Pouring the expertise and resources of Australia's second-largest bank into achieving greater national financial inclusion will be a priority for 2017, Westpac Group’s chief financial officer, Peter King has told AB+F.

Following on from its first Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP), announced last week alongside Good Shepherd Microfinance and its ‘big four’ peers, Westpac is backing up with $2 million in funding for the microfinancing charity, Thrive, whose microfinance loans support refugees in starting their own businesses.

“We believe we have a role to play in helping people build better money management skills. For many people, the relationship with money is a tough one,” said King.

According to King, at present over 64 per cent of working-age Australians are facing some level of financial stress or vulnerability. One in two have limited or no savings.

“Westpac Group has committed to financial inclusion – to helping people become more financially resilient and withstand financial shocks throughout their lives.”

The four major banks have already signed up with the FIAP as part of the 12 "trailblazers" on the program, which included other organisations in financial services including Bank Australia, Suncorp and industry superannuation fund HESTA.

Business start-up package

In the same week Westpac walked the talk by seconding a chief operating officer (COO) to refugee microfinancing charity, Thrive, to assist with all aspects of Thrive’s operations, from credit policies to loan documents, as part of a partnership aimed at helping refugees build strong, independent businesses.

According to King, Westpac will provide funding without cost to Thrive, to ensure that the charity has a secure funding source to support eligible applicants sourced through refugee settlement service providers, like Settlement Services International (in NSW) and AMES (in Victoria).

Thrive will provide loans to refugees through a business start-up package, as well as assist with further education programs, qualifications and apprenticeships and business mentoring.

“As a major financial institution, we are well positioned to apply our skills, expertise and resources to help prevent people from falling into financial distress, and provide assistance and pathways towards more inclusive growth," added King.

Westpac is among 12 major Australian organisations that produced FIAPs as part of an Australian government initiative, coordinated by Good Shepherd and Ernst & Young (EY), and is now committed to some 200 initiatives aimed at the 3.3 million financially excluded Australians, who have been or are still unable to access basic financial products, services or assistance.

According to independent economist Saul Eslake, the FIAP project could contribute almost $3 billion to the national GDP and save the government $583 million over ten years.

Developed in response to Australia’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, King said the FIAP brings together the work already in progress across Westpac Group, “as well as setting out the specific priorities that will guide our initiatives over the next twelve months.”

“It is a roadmap Westpac has decided upon as the most direct way to assist vulnerable Australians to better manage their money, build their financial resilience, and participate in our economy throughout their lives,” he told AB+F.

The 15 commitments laid out in Westpac’s Action Plan include enhancing Westpac Assist service for customers facing hardship; tailoring services for communities at economic risk; expanding targeted financial education; supporting small business / social enterprise through grants, microfinance and access to Westpac’s supply chain.

Westpac, excluded, financial inclusion, Thrive, FIAP, Good Shepherd, microfinance, EY
Christian Edwards, cedwards@financialpublications.com.au
Article Posted:
December 02, 2016

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