Who Would Be Affected by More Banking Deserts?

From The St. Louis Fed On The Economy Blog.

Although technology has made it easy to bank from almost anywhere, personal and public benefits are still derived from bank branches. In areas without branches—commonly referred to as “banking deserts”—the costs and inconveniences of cashing checks, establishing deposit accounts, obtaining loans and maintaining banking relationships are exacerbated.

Banking Deserts a Growing Concern?

The closing of thousands of bank branches in the aftermath of the last recession has intensified societal concerns about access to financial services among low-income and minority populations, groups that are often affected disproportionately in such situations. The number of people stranded in areas devoid of bank services would probably expand in the future if branches continue to close.

From this perspective, available resources may be better spent trying to prevent more deserts than trying to repopulate existing deserts with new branches.

What Areas Are at Risk?

In the figure below, we isolated branches that were outside the 10-mile range of any others. That is, we found branches that would create new banking deserts if closed. Our analysis is based on demographic and economic data collected for the county subdivision in which each branch is located.

Banking Deserts

We identified 1,055 potential deserts in 2014, of which 204 were in urban areas and 851 in rural areas. The urban areas had a combined population of 2 million, while the rural areas had a combined population of 1.9 million.

These potential deserts have relatively low population densities of 26 people per square mile in urban areas and 12 people per square mile in rural areas. Comparative densities outside potential deserts are, respectively, 176 and 26 people per square mile. In other words, areas with dispersed populations are more at risk of becoming a banking desert.

Potential Effects of New Banking Deserts

Median incomes are $46,717 in potential urban deserts and $41,259 in potential rural deserts. This suggests that any desert expansion would affect lower-income people more than higher-income people.

Minorities constitute 9.8 percent of the population in potential urban deserts and 4.0 percent of the population in potential rural deserts. Both percentages are lower than those for existing deserts and nondeserts. This suggests that newly created deserts may not disadvantage minorities to a greater extent than existing deserts do.

Branches in potential deserts are small, with median deposits of $23 million in urban areas and $20 million in rural areas. They tend to be operated by small banks, with median total assets of $776 million in urban areas and $317 million in rural areas.

The small size of these branches and the banks that own them suggest that what stands between a community and its isolation within a new banking desert are not the decisions made by big banks with a national footprint but, rather, the decisions made by locally oriented community banks. Additionally, potential deserts are more likely to be located in Midwestern states.

The Majors Are Divided On Brokers

From The Adviser.

The Sydney-based majors (CBA and Westpac) have a very different view to their Melbourne competitors (ANZ and NAB) when it comes to third-party distribution. CBA and Westpac’s move away from brokers is no secret. It’s been well documented: reported by Morningstar and called out by AFG.

There are a number of different reasons for why this is happening. For a start, both CBA and Westpac have traditionally held larger investor and interest-only books than NAB and ANZ, and larger proportions of each — brokers are a convenient lever for slowing the growth in these portfolios.

It’s more likely, however, that these banks simply aren’t as keen on brokers as ANZ and NAB. Paying for huge branch networks (a fixed cost) that are underperforming while also paying for third-party originations (a variable cost) rubs some CEOs the wrong way. Particularly as they scramble to meet ever-increasing capital requirements and — more importantly — produce profits for shareholders.

What about the customer?

In a recent interview with The Adviser, CBA chief executive Ian Narev said that while the broker network “provides a really important proposition that customers like and want” and will be a “critical part of the group strategy”, the “preference” was for customers to go through the proprietary channel.

He said: “[O]ur preference is always going to be, as you can imagine — for all sorts of reasons — to service as many of our customers through our own channels as we possibly can. That’s a strategic priority for us.”

Meanwhile, Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer told The Adviser in May that while the bank has “no issue” with brokers, its branches are a priority: “We want to do better in our proprietary channels. We know that customers like to come directly to us online. We know that customers like visiting our branches and talking to our people.”

Compare this to ANZ’s strategy. Last year’s JP Morgan Australian Mortgage Industry report found that despite being the smallest of the four majors in the domestic mortgage market, ANZ has been successful in achieving the same dollar growth in mortgage balances since 2010.

“We believe a key driver of this result has been the success ANZ has had with the broker channel, with originations rising from ~40 per cent of flow to ~50 per cent of flow since 2010,” the report said.

Critically, JP Morgan found that ANZ has been steadily reducing its branch presence since 2011.

“ANZ is in the unique position where it has consistently grown its loan book above market for the last [few] years at the same time as it is actively reducing its branch presence and increasing its broker presence,” former JP Morgan banking analyst Scott Manning said.

“That is acting as a bit of a business case potentially for other banks to follow,” he said.

Like ANZ, NAB saw the writing on the wall and has made significant investments in the mortgage broking industry. Last year the group launched its Broking for Life campaign, along with an overhauled product suite, in an effort to take advantage of the growth in the third-party channel.

Speaking to The Adviser at the time, NAB’s Steve Kane explained why the group is banking on brokers.

“We did it on the basis that customers are going to brokers, they’re going to continue to go to brokers in ever-increasing amounts. If we don’t provide the right service and the right opportunity for those customers to deal with us through the broker, then… it’s not so much how much more we will get; it’s how much less we will get.

“It’s as much a defensive strategy as it is an acquisition strategy. It’s just the right thing to do. If we truly believe in the broker channel, and we do, then we had to show that, not just talk about it.”

Right now, there appear to be two distinct camps of major banks, separated geographically but also by their third-party strategies. One in Melbourne (ANZ and NAB) and one in Sydney (WBC and CBA). Together they hold around 85 per cent of the mortgage market. On most big issues the majors are generally in unison. On brokers they are now divided. They may even have different views about the future of broker commissions.

In an environment where big decisions are being made around broker remuneration, this is a great outcome for industry. If the big four were moving together as a unit, like they have on other matters, then things could get ugly. But they’re not.

The broking industry has effectively divided the majors — a significant development that could deliver some very positive outcomes for competition and policy setting if it continues.

Suncorp announces new partnership with rediATM network

Suncorp has today announced it has entered a new partnership with Cuscal Limited, owners of the rediATM network, to significantly increase the number of direct-charge-free ATMs for its customers.

Suncorp CEO Customer Platforms, Gary Dransfield, said from 1 August, 2017, Cuscal Limited will become the exclusive provider of Suncorp’s ATMs.

“Suncorp customers will soon have fee-free access to more ATMs, in more locations than ever before, following the announcement of this new partnership,” Mr Dransfield said.

“The agreement will see the number of fee-free ATMs available to customers more than double to 3,300, up from the current 1,600.

“This partnership meets all of our requirements as a business, and is a great result for customers who will benefit from increased ATM access and functionality enhancements across the rediATM network.”

Commenting on the news, Cuscal MD Craig Kennedy said:

“We’re very pleased to welcome Suncorp to the rediATM network. It will make the network stronger and is great news for our 90 plus financial institution members, as well as their 11 million cardholders who have charge-free access to the rediATM network,” he said.

“We’ve been providing safe, convenient, reliable ATM services for more than 30 years and with our recent investment in refreshing our entire rediATM network, we’re looking forward to doing so for many years to come.”

REA Group to acquire a majority stake in Smartline

From Australian Broker.

REA Group announced today that realestate.com.au has entered into an agreement to acquire a majority stake in mortgage broking franchise business, Smartline and has also entered into a strategic mortgage broking partnership  with National Australia  Bank (NAB).

Smartline is a leading Australian mortgage broking franchise group with over 300 advisers nationally, settling more than $6bn in loans annually with a total loan book of approximately $25bn. realestate.com.au will acquire an 80.3% stake in Smartline, with the remaining 19.7% shareholding to be retained by the existing management team. This team will continue to be led by executive director and co-founder Chris Acret and will operate under its current structure and brand.

The purchase consideration of $67m will be funded from existing cash reserves. The minority shareholders hold a put option to sell the remaining 19.7% of shares which can only be exercised after three years, at a price dependent on the financial performance of Smartline. If not exercised, REA will acquire the remaining shares at the end of four years. The transaction is expected to complete in late July 2017.

realestate.com.au and NAB have also agreed to build a mortgage broking solution which adds to the strategic partnership announced in December 2016 to create an Australian-first end-to-end digital property search and financing experience. To help achieve this, NAB will provide an opportunity for its Choice Home Loans brokers to join this new broking solution.

The strategic partnership with NAB enables REA to offer a realestate.com.au broking service at the launch of realestate.com.au Home Loans later this year. The acquisition of Smartline will give the REA Financial Services segment greater scale and capability for the long term.

With an average monthly audience of  5.9 million, realestate.com.au has the largest audience of property seekers in Australia. This investment and partnership further strengthens REA’s move into financing, an integral part of buying a property. The home loan market in Australia is worth approximately $400bn a  year, of which more than 50% are obtained through mortgage brokers. The share of mortgages originated through broker channels continues to increase.

It is expected that REA’s entire Financial Services segment will contribute revenue, net of broker commissions, of between $26m to $30m and EBITDA between $7m to $11m in FY18.

REA group CEO Tracey Fellows commented: “Building a strong presence in the broker market channel is an important part of our financial services strategy. These investments allow us to enter a new market with two of the industry’s most trusted and successful mortgage broking operations.

“Providing a broker solution will complement the digital search and finance experience we are building in partnership with NAB on realestate.com.au. It’s about giving people greater choice when selecting the right home loan for them, ” said Fellows.

Smartline executive director and co-founder, Chris Acret commented: “This investment is a great strategic fit for both businesses. It’s born from a shared vision to build a market-leading home loan offering, marrying our trusted network of brokers with realestate.com.au’s leading digital capability.”

The ATM at 50: how a hole in the wall changed the world

From The Conversation.

Next time you withdraw money from a hole in the wall, consider singing a rendition of happy birthday. For on June 27, the Automated Teller Machine (or ATM) celebrates its half century. Fifty years ago, the first cash machine was put to work at the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank in London. Two days later, a Swedish device known as the Bankomat was in operation in Uppsala. And a couple of weeks after that, another one built by Chubb and Smith Industries was inaugurated in London by Westminster Bank (today part of RBS Group).

These events fired the starting gun for today’s self-service banking culture – long before the widespread acceptance of debit and credit cards. The success of the cash machine enabled people to make impromptu purchases, spend more money on weekend and evening leisure, and demand banking services when and where they wanted them. The infrastructure, systems and knowledge they spawned also enabled bankers to offer their customers point of sale terminals, and telephone and internet banking.

There was substantial media attention when these “robot cashiers” were launched. Banks promised their customers that the cash machine would liberate them from the shackles of business hours and banking at a single branch. But customers had to learn how to use – and remember – a PIN, perform a self-service transaction and trust a machine with their money.

People take these things for granted today, but when cash machines first appeared many had never before been in contact with advanced electronics.

And the system was far from perfect. Despite widespread demand, only bank customers considered to have “better credit” were offered the service. The early machines were also clunky, heavy (and dangerous) to move, insecure, unreliable, and seldom conveniently located.

Indeed, unlike today’s machines, the first ATMs could do only one thing: dispense a fixed amount of cash when activated by a paper token or bespoke plastic card issued to customers at retail branches during business hours. Once used, tokens would be stored by the machine so that branch staff could retrieve them and debit the appropriate accounts. The plastic cards, meanwhile, would have to be sent back to the customer by post. Needless to say, it took banks and technology companies years to agree common standards and finally deliver on their promise of 24/7 access to cash.

The globalisation effect

Estimates by RBR London concur with my research, suggesting that by 1970, there were still fewer than 1,500 of the machines around the world, concentrated in Europe, North America and Japan. But there were 40,000 by 1980 and a million by 2000.

A number of factors made this ATM explosion possible. First, sharing locations created more transaction volume at individual ATMs. This gave incentives for small and medium-sized financial institutions to invest in this technology. At one point, for instance, there were some 200 shared ATM networks in the US and 80 shared networks in Japan.

They also became more popular once banks digitised their records, allowing the machines to perform a host of other tasks, such as bank transfers, balance requests and bill payments. Over the last five decades, a huge number of people have made the shift away from the cash economy and into the banking system. Consequently, ATMs became a key way of avoiding congestion at branches.

ATM design began to accommodate people with visual and mobility disabilities, too. And in recent decades, many countries have allowed non-bank companies, known as Independent ATM Deployers (IAD) to operate machines. The IAD were key to populating non-bank locations such as corner shops, petrol stations and casinos.

Indeed, while a large bank in the UK might own 4,000 devices and one in the US as many as 12,000, Cardtronics, the largest IAD, manages a fleet of 230,000 ATMs in 11 countries.

Bank to the future

The ATM has remained a relevant and convenient self-service channel for the last half century – and its history is one of invention and re-invention, evolution rather than revolution.

Self-service banking and ATMs continue to evolve. Instead of PIN authentication, some ATMS now use “tap and go” contactless payment technology using bank cards and mobile phones. Meanwhile, ATMs in Poland and Japan have used biometric recognition, which can identify a customer’s iris, fingerprint or voice, for some time, while banks in other countries are considering them.

So it’s a good time to consider what the history of cash dispensers can teach us. The ATM was not the result of a eureka moment of a single middle-aged man in a bath or garage, but from active collaboration between various groups of bankers and engineers to solve the significant challenges of a changing world. It took two decades for the ATM to mature and gain widespread, worldwide acceptance, but today there are 3.5m ATMs with another 500,000 expected by 2020.

Research I am currently undertaking suggests that ATMs may have reached saturation point in some Western countries. However, research by the ATM Industry Association suggests there is strong demand for them in China, India and the Middle East. In fact, while in the West people tend to use them for three self-service functions (cash withdrawal, balance enquiries, and purchasing mobile phone airtime), Chinese customers consumers regularly use them for as many as 100 different tasks.

Taken for granted?

Interestingly, people in most urban areas around the world tend to interact with the same five ATMs. But they shouldn’t be taken for granted. In many countries in Africa, Asia and South America, they offer services to millions of people otherwise excluded from the banking sector.

In most developed counties, meanwhile, the retail branch and the ATM are the only two channels over which financial institutions have 100% control. This is important when you need to verify the authenticity of your customer. Banks do not control the make and model of their customers’ smart phones, tablets or personal computers, which are vulnerable to hacking and fraud. While ATMs are targeted by thieves, mass cybernetic attacks on them have yet to materialise.

I am often asked whether the advent of a cashless, digital economy heralds the end of the ATM. My response is that while the world might do away with cash and call ATMs something else, the revolution of automated self-service banking that began 50 years ago is here to stay.

Author: Bernardo Batiz-Lazo, Professor of Business History and Bank Management, Bangor University

Brokers losing clients as channel conflict thrives

From The Adviser.

Mortgage brokers have grown increasingly concerned about channel conflict over the last 12 months and singled out which lenders are costing them business.

The Adviser surveyed 766 brokers over two days last week and found that 88 per cent were more concerned about channel conflict than they were 12 months ago.<

Over 93 per cent of brokers cited the major banks as their biggest concern.

More than half of brokers surveyed (55 per cent) said channel conflict had influenced which lenders they recommended to clients over the last 12 months. However, 74 per cent of brokers said channel conflict would influence which lenders they recommend to clients over the coming 12 months.

Over 78 per cent of brokers admitted they had lost a client as a result of a direct approach from a lender. Of those brokers who lost a client through channel conflict, 97 per cent said the major banks and their subsidiaries were responsible.

The survey results are part of a well-established trend taking place in the third-party channel. As fears mount over channel conflict and the majority of brokers admit to losing clients, sentiment towards the big four banks is clearly trending downward.

Aggregators have reported a notable shift in the flow of mortgages to the majors. The latest AFG Competition Index, released in March, found that the big four lost 6.55 per cent share of broker-originated loans over a 12-month period.

The major banks and their subsidiaries (ANZ, CBA, Bankwest, NAB, Westpac, Bank of Melbourne, Bank SA, and St.George Bank) saw 65.25 per cent of all mortgages written to them through the broker channel in the quarter to February 2017, according to the Index.

While this figure is up from the low of 64.09 per cent in the quarter to December 2016, it is markedly down from the comparative period last year, when the majors accounted for 71.8 per cent of all mortgages written by the third-party channel.

Meanwhile, information gathered by Momentum Intelligence for its Third-Party Lending Report: Major Banks 2017, suggests that the dominance of the big four banks is being undermined by a growing dissatisfaction among mortgage brokers.

Growth Slowed in the March Quarter to 0.3 per cent

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the pace of growth of the Australian economy slowed in the March quarter to 0.3 per cent in seasonally adjusted chain volume terms. Through the year, GDP grew 1.7 per cent.

Investment in new housing fell by 4.4 per cent in the March Quarter 2017 which brings the sector down from record high investment in December 2016 and back to levels similar to those experienced at the start of 2016.

As Saul Estlake noted in The Conversation today:

It’s now been 103 quarters (25 years and 9 months) since Australia last had consecutive quarters of negative growth in real gross domestic product (GDP), in the March and June quarters of 1991.

Contrary to much-repeated claims, the Netherlands didn’t experience more than a quarter-century of economic growth without consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth between the early 1980s and the global financial crisis.

The Netherlands’ real GDP declined by 0.3% in the June quarter of 2003, and by 0.01% in the September quarter of that year, according to data published by Statistics Netherlands and, separately, by the OECD. So, at best, the Netherlands went for only 22 years without experiencing a recession. Australia surpassed that benchmark in 2013.

Yes, that second quarterly decline in 2003 was almost imperceptible. But sporting records are delineated by margins as small as one one-hundredth of a second, so we can’t blithely discount a -0.01% fall in real GDP as “not relevant”.

Even if you blinked and missed that tiny second successive decline in real GDP in the September quarter of 2003, the Netherlands still wouldn’t hold the record for the longest run of continuous economic growth. That belongs to Japan – which, according to OECD data, went from the March quarter of 1960 to the March quarter of 1993 without ever registering two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth in real GDP. That’s 133 quarters, or more than 33 years.

Indeed, if Japanese GDP data were available on a quarterly basis earlier than 1960 it’s likely that this run of continuous economic growth would have been even longer, perhaps as long as 38 years, inferring from annual data available back to 1955. So Australia would need to avoid consecutive quarters of negative real GDP growth until at least 2024 if it is truly to be able to claim this “world record” as its own.

Even more importantly, the definition of a technical recession as (two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth in real GDP) is, as former RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said, “not very useful”. It was originally proposed in December 1974 by Julius Shishkin, who at that time was the head of the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the US Census Bureau (now the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which publishes the US national accounts).

It’s not used to identify recessions in the US. It takes no account of differences over time, or as between countries, in the rates of growth of either population or productivity – which are the key determinants of whether a given rate of economic growth is sufficient to prevent a sharp rise in unemployment. This is something which most people (other than economists) would use to delineate a recession.

While Australia has avoided consecutive quarterly contractions in real GDP since the first half of 1991, we’ve had two periods of consecutive quarterly declines in real per capita GDP (in 2000 and 2006). We’ve also had two periods of consecutive quarterly declines in real gross domestic income or GDI, which takes account of income gains or losses accruing from movements in Australia’s terms of trade (in 2008-09, and in 2014). Perhaps most meaningfully of all, Australia has had two episodes where the unemployment rate has risen by one percentage point or more in 12 months or less (in 2001 and 2009).

That’s still a better track record than almost any other advanced economy during the past quarter-century or so – and it reflects well on the quality of economic management (and the nature of our luck) over this period. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be in the business of awarding ourselves prizes to which we’re not entitled.

And the long term trend also highlights a slowing, so we need new growth engines if we are to keep the growth ball in the air!

Growth was recorded across the economy with 17 out of 20 industries growing during the quarter. Strong growth was observed within the service industries including Finance and Insurance Services, Wholesale Trade, and Health Care and Social Assistance.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing decreased after strong growth in the previous two quarters, while Manufacturing decreased for the tenth time in eleven quarters.

Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman said; “This broad-based growth was tempered by falls in exports and dwelling investment. Dwelling investment declined in all states, except Victoria, and overall is the largest decline for Australia since June 2009.”

Compensation of employees (COE) increased 1.0 per cent in the March quarter, a pick up from the negative growth recorded in the December quarter, and is consistent with other labour market data. COE is still only 1.5 per cent higher through the year, continuing to contribute to the reduction in the household saving rate. The household saving ratio fell to 4.7 in the March quarter, half the rate it was in March quarter 2013.

Mr Hockman said; “Even though there was a fall in dwelling investment this quarter, levels are still historically high. There was also positive growth in household consumption, albeit in non-discretionary items such as electricity and fuel purchases. The softer growth in household consumption is broadly in line with modest income growth.”

Bank App Power Users Are Still Active Branch Visitors

From S&P.

Despite the growing popularity of banking apps, the death knell for brick-and-mortar branches should not be sounded just yet.

In the 2017 Mobile Money survey from S&P Global Market Intelligence, 81% of the mobile bank app users polled said they had visited a branch of their primary bank sometime within the month prior to taking the survey.

What is more, the study showed a higher percentage for those that used their app at least once a day. That is, customers that used their mobile app more were more likely to have visited a branch than those that used their app less than once a day. Based on this, perhaps apps can be viewed as a barometer for the most engaged customers, both in the cyber world and the real world.

But while they may still be going to branches, frequent app users are not necessarily loyal to their banks. The survey showed that daily app users were three times as likely as non-daily users to have switched their checking account to a different bank in the year prior to the survey.  It might be that these frequent app users are hunting for the best possible terms and services, which could include the functionality of the bank’s app. Active users were much more willing to consider opening a checking or savings account with a “branchless bank” (i.e. one with no physical building/office locations).

Deposits and withdrawals were the most commonly cited activities that these so-called power users did inside their bank branch. The same was true for non-daily app users. One of the areas where the two groups notably diverged, however, was savings and investment services. Of daily app users that visited a bank branch in the prior month, roughly 17.7% made use of savings and investment services at the branch. For non-daily users, the percentage was only around 6.4%.

As one might expect, the people that used the app heavily were more open to the idea of a paid app. Daily users were nearly twice as willing as non-daily users to pay a fee of $3 per month to keep using their mobile bank app. The age breakdown of active versus non-active users was also as one might assume. About half of those aged 18 to 25 used their app at least daily, versus 17.6% of those aged 67 and over.In terms of the services they use on the app, daily and non-daily users do many of the same things, such as checking their balance and reviewing transactions. One of the areas where they seemed to differ, though, was transferring money to another person. About 25.7% of daily users said this was a feature they used most, versus around 12.2% for non-daily users.

As far as features they would like to see, daily users were much more likely to want a smartwatch app than non-daily users, which stands to reason. The daily users are likely more tech-savvy in general, and therefore probably want to use the latest technological gadgets.

The 2017 Mobile Money survey was fielded between January 26 and February 1 from a random sample of 4,000 U.S. mobile bank app users aged 18 and older. S&P Global Market Intelligence weighted the data to be nationally representative. Results from the survey, which was conducted online, have a margin of error of +/- 1.6% at the 95% confidence level based on the sample size of 4,000.

Branches still leading channel for major banks

From The Adviser.

Brokers are writing less than 50 per cent of mortgages for the big four banks but have become the dominant channel for Australia’s smaller lenders, according to fresh APRA figures.

APRA’s quarterly bank property exposure data for March found that brokers wrote $31.3 billion worth of home loans for the big four, up 8.7 per cent over last year.

While brokers currently account for 46.6 per cent of major bank mortgages, Australia’s non-major lenders are seeing 52.1 per cent of loans written through the third-party channel.

APRA figures found non-major broker originated loans increased by 19.7 per cent between the March 2016 and March 2017 quarters. Foreign bank subsidiaries saw a significant increase in broker loans, up 92.9 per cent over the year.

The data comes after a number of reports in recent weeks have flagged changes to the third-party distribution strategies of the major lenders.

A recent Morningstar research report into Mortgage Choice noted a number of “industry headwinds” for the broking industry, including a change of direction in the mortgage strategies of two major banks.

“Changes in mortgage distribution strategy by Australia’s two largest mortgage banks CBA and Westpac will over time likely slow the growth rate of home loans sourced through brokers,” the report said.

These changes have led one alternative lender to urge mortgage brokers to diversify their offering.

Pepper’s managing director of Australian mortgages and personal loans, Mario Rehayem, told The Adviser that brokers need to look beyond the big banks in today’s market.

“Your business model, and the whole value of your business as a broker, hinges on the diversity of your back book,” Mr Rehayem said. “If you want to build a business, an asset that you can one day sell as a going concern, the buyers will be looking at the diversity of your back book, the run-off rate and your arrears,” he said.

“Imagine if more than one major bank changed their distribution strategy overnight. What’s going to happen to the broker market? How will brokers react to that? If you’re going to be pigeonholed to one bank and tomorrow that bank decides that their belly is full of third-party business, what are you going to do?”

Mr Rehayem said that brokers shouldn’t be “cherry picking” clients but instead position themselves to satisfy every type of consumer. He added that brokers are being forced to radically change their business models as banks change their appetites.

Australia’s largest mortgage provider, CBA, has been clear about its plans to grow its proprietary channel, telling The Adviser in February that it was a “strategic priority” for the group.

Australians Choose Digital Payments

Australians are embracing digital payments according to the latest  Milestones Report released by the payments industry self-regulatory body Australian Payments Network (previously Australian Payments Clearing Association). As a result, cash and cheques are in decline. Australia’s digital economy underpins what can increasingly be characterised as a less-cash society.

Cheque use plunged 20% to 111.6 million – the largest drop ever-recorded. The value of cheques dropped by 6% over the same period, after remaining flat in 2015 and dropping by less than 1% in 2014. Over the last five years, cheque use has dropped 56%.

The number of ATM withdrawals dropped 7.5% to 648.5 million in 2016 following a 5.5% drop in 2015 and a 4.7% drop in 2014. Since 2011, ATM withdrawals have dropped by 22%.

CEO of the Australian Payments Network, Dr Leila Fourie said “Looking at the payment choices that Australians make, it’s clear that the vast majority of us are moving away from cash and cheques faster than ever before. This is happening because of widespread use of new technology combined with a strong preference for faster and more convenient payment options.”

Consumers’ preference for digital payments is reflected in the strong year-on-year growth in card and direct entry transactions:

  • Australians used their cards 12.3% more in 2016, making 7.4 billion transactions.
  • Direct entry transactions (direct debit and direct credit) increased by 8.6% to 3.5 billion.

Over the last five years, card transactions grew by 72% and direct entry by 36%.

Increased smartphone penetration, which reached 84% in 2016, up from 76% in 2014, is an important contributing factor.

Australia’s online retail spend was estimated at $21.6 billion in 2016 and encouragingly from a digital inclusion perspective, this spend is not restricted to digital natives. Older Australians are using online shopping platforms more, with domestic online spending growing by 8.7% for those in the 55-64 age group, and 7.5% for 65+.

The Report also tracks progress on initiatives supporting Australia’s transition to the digital economy including the industry’s New Payments Platform and Australian Payments Plan.