The big four banks have very few friends

Joe Hockey’s attack on bank margins last week shows that the big four banks are now more politically isolated than at any time in the industry’s history. The moment when they change their strategy may be drawing closer. Public dislike of the banks has been obvious for years. It has only grown through the global financial crisis.

That’s in part because of a sense that the banks were “bailed out”, and in part because the crisis removed much of the big four’s market competition in high-profile markets like home lending. A memorable television campaign from ANZ featuring “Barbara from BankWorld” has no doubt helped cement all the negative perceptions.

Over the past three years, the banks’ strategy for dealing with their public image problems has been mostly to ignore them. The bank management team that greenlighted “Barbara from BankWorld” , for instance, clearly thought the industry was safe from any meaningful community backlash.

The sole major bank to adjust its strategy has been the NAB, which has decided on a low-price, low-fee “consumer champion” retail strategy. But the industry’s image problems aren’t going away. They’re growing. The past week’s events confirm that the big banks are, essentially, without political friends in Australia. Most notably, this past week the banks found the Liberal Party emphatically against them, a situation they have never before faced.

Source: Banking Day

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