We’ve now started to see other banks’ responses to the Reserve Bank’s interest rate rise on Melbourne Cup Day – others apart from the astonishingly audacious Commonwealth Bank, who are clearly Determined to Break Profit Records.
Flying in the face of the majors’ insistence that interest rates “must” go up beyond the Reserve Bank’s increase, a number of smaller players have announced that they are passing on no more – and in some cases, even less. By Friday we had heard from Newcastle Permanent Building Society, Greater Building Society and Laiki Bank – all announced a 0.25% increase. ME Bank did the same for their super fund members’ loans, but passed on only 0.15% to their other customers. And Yellow Brick Road, run by former Wizard boss Mark Bouris, have confirmed that they will not pass on any increases to their variable rates until February.
How can this be possible, if what the Big 4 are saying is true? Well it seems the smaller players are taking a look at the whole picture, and realising that even if your funding costs have gone up it can make good business sense not to pass on the entire increase to your customers. There is value to be gained in keeping prices down for existing customers in order to encourage them to stay. There is value in keeping prices down for new customers in order to make it easier to get more of them and to keep the cost of acquiring them down. And there is value in maintaining the standing of your brand in order that all of your other businesses remain strong.
For my sins, I have previously worked closely with the pricing boffins in large financial institutions. I know that their pricing models are not very good at taking these other sources of value into account: in the world of their models, if costs go up and the target return on equity remains the same then the only sure way to balance the equation out is to find costs savings elsewhere or to increase prices. And I can tell you from personal experience that if you try to talk to them about the value to be gained from being nice to your customers, they look at you as if you are from another planet.
In some ways, getting banks to change their ways is a bit like the argument for putting a price on carbon. If businesses place no value on CO2 emissions, then they have no incentive to take them into account in the decisions they make. They can pollute away and we all suffer, and the only way to turn the tide is for governments to place an explicit cost on the emissions. In the same way, if banks don’t place a value on how customers feel then someone must act to force them to. And the most effective way of getting banks to place a real and large economic value on customer satisfaction is this:
If you don’t like your bank, leave them. Vote with your feet. If enough people do it, then the finance boffins will have to put it into their pricing model: when prices rise, people leave. And only then will the bank chiefs take notice.
Don’t wait for Wayne Swan. Or Joe Hockey. Or GetUp, CHOICE or the ACCC. You can make the difference.
And we hope that you’ll find all the products, rates, information and tools you need to find your new home loan, right here at Mozo.