A new study of 240 Australian emergency service workers including firefighters, ambulance service workers and paramedics has highlighted a number of concerns many workers in the sector have about their current and future financial outlooks.
The research, conducted by CoreData on behalf of Firefighters Mutual Bank, revealed that just 13% of emergency service workers felt they received the support they needed from their current banks when it came to saving for the future, while 47% of respondents suggested that they needed much more support.
Only a minority of respondents (two in five) said that they felt financially prepared for retirement, while just 22% acknowledged that their bank had helped them reach their financial goals.
However, the study found that despite these opinions many emergency service workers were reluctant to make the switch to a different bank - 40% instead indicating that they would stick with their current institution because of familiarity.
According to Firefighters Mutual Bank General Manager, Jim O’Connell, the roughly 30,000 emergency service workers across the country deserve more help from their banks to help meet their financial goals.
“Given the nature of their jobs, we are surprised at how under-serviced our emergency service workers are by their financial institutions. The message is clear - they need more support from their banks on their finances,” he said.
“These individuals play a vital role in not only the service they provide, but also within their communities. If you have an extraordinary job helping the community, you shouldn’t have to put up with an ordinary bank.”
What is a mutual bank?
Given that around 80% of Australians bank with one of the big four - ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac - the idea of a mutual bank may be unfamiliar to many.
So what exactly is a mutual bank, and how do they differ?
“Mutuals banks are the old credit unions and building societies, which means rather than being shareholder-owned like many of the larger banks they’re actually owned by their customers and members,” said Mozo Product Data Manager, Peter Marshall.
“The theory behind them is that because they don’t aim to make huge profits, they’re able to keep costs low for their members. And overall they do tend to compare well with other banks, but each individual institution is going to have it’s benefits and downsides so it’s still imperative that Australians do their research before making the switch.”
Traditionally, one of the major hurdles faced by customer-owned institutions has been their small scale and limited awareness outside of a small geographic area or community.
But with the damage many of Australia’s larger banks have suffered in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission, coupled with government reforms aimed at making mutuals more competitive, institutions like Firefighters Mutual Bank and their parent brand Teachers Mutual Bank could prove to benefit.
“The government has proposed a number of changes in recent years as part of a broader initiative to improve competition in the financial services sector,” said Marshall.
“One of these is giving mutual banks greater access to funding by allowing them to issue a new type of cooperative shares, which should give them a greater scope to compete on a more level playing field with larger banks.”
Has the idea of a mutual bank piqued your interest? Compare a range of bank account offers from customer-owned banks by heading over to the Mozo bank account comparison hub today!