Bank Australia

Responsible banking.

The extended version of this case study is presented in Australia’s Leading Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises in 2016, which is part of the CEMI Discussion Paper series.

The Australian financial services sector encompasses a range of businesses including foreign and domestic banks, credit unions, building societies and customer owned banks. The most dominant firms are the four major domestic banks, which together control around 78% of the national financial services market.

The level of market concentration within the Australian financial services sector is high. This concentration has increased significantly over the past decade due to mergers and acquisitions by the major banks.

Headquartered in the Melbourne suburb of Kew, Victoria, Bank Australia traces its origins to the creation of the CSIRO Co-operative Credit Society Ltd in 1957. The company became the first mutual bank in Australia in 2011 when it secured a banking licence from APRA and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). The change of name from bankmecu to Bank Australia took place in 2015.

Faced with increased competition from a highly competitive financial services sector Bank Australia has chosen to embrace its mutuality and emphasise its customer owned banking status.

Bank Australia actively measures how its interest rates, fees and charges compare with the “big four” banks. However, while the company seek“s to remain competitive in this respect it also aims to promote its social and environmental policies.

Bank Australia invests up to 4% of its after-tax pro ts into community projects and it has engaged with its members over what projects to target. This work highlights what Bank Australia sees as its development of a community of interest or purpose. This is often quite broad and is driven by things that its member-customers feel are important beyond just getting good prices and services.

Bank Australia has made a strategic decision to embrace its mutuality, and focus on being different from mainstream banking. It has tapped into what seems to be a growing segment of the community that wants an alternative. This appears to be people who are socially aware and concerned about making positive change both in economic and social terms.