The cut and thrust of fairness in banking

ANZ Customer Fairness Advisor Evelyn Halls has received the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division in the Australia Day 2024 Honours List. The honour was received for service to sports administration, and to fencing.

This profile story originally appeared on July 19, 2023. Read on to learn more about her fascinating journey.

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Fending off an opponent with a blade and cutting through the complex world of banking have more in common than you might think.

At least according to ANZ Customer Fairness Advisor Evelyn Halls. She probably has one of the more unique CVs in Australian banking.

“I think banking offers huge opportunities to deliver services in new and different ways. Fairness is a key component of that.” – Evelyn Halls, Customer Fairness Advisor, ANZ

Aside from her 25 years of experience in the legal and financial services industries – including serving as Lead Ombudsman – Banking & Finance at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority – she is also a two-time Olympic fencer and Vice President of the Australian Olympic Committee.

Not to mention, she is also a member of the Ethics & Integrity Committee of Athletics Australia and was previously an Integrity Commissioner for Cricket Victoria.

While the paths seem divergent, Halls says sport steeled her for high pressure situations in which she must make complex decisions.

“I think in fencing you're always planning ahead, thinking about what could go wrong; you need to process lots of information rapidly and respond quickly while under physical stress.”

Taking part in a combat sport also gives you the experience of standing your ground, it means if you believe in something, you're prepared to see it through.”

Challenging assumptions

At ANZ, Halls says her job is to make sure the customer perspective continues to be a “foremost consideration” at all levels of decision making.

The customer fairness advisor role was established in 2018 with Colin Neave (a former Commonwealth Ombudsman) first serving in the role. Halls assumed the mantle early last year.

After just over 12 months in the role, Halls says to execute it effectively she engages with different areas across the bank – asking questions and challenging assumptions – to promote the customer’s point of view.

While her role includes providing guidance on past events, Halls is particularly interested in the opportunity to have input into product design and service delivery to prevent future problems.

I think one of the challenging aspects when you work somewhere like a bank, is that over time you naturally become very familiar with banking products, processes and systems. My time as an Ombudsman gave me a real insight into some of the issues customers can face in their day-to-day banking, so I try to bring that perspective to ANZ.”

Halls points to the ‘jargon’ often used in financial services as an area where simple but effective changes can be made. “It’s important to remember that most customers signing up for their first home loan are not familiar with concepts like offset accounts, Loan to Value ratios and so on. However, if these ideas can be explained simply, that’s beneficial for both the customer and the bank.”

Halls notes that there are many people in the Australian community who are culturally and linguistically diverse. “They operate very effectively day to day in an English-speaking world. But once you start introducing additional levels of complexity or unnecessary jargon, that can be difficult to navigate. Avoiding such pitfalls can be surprisingly simple – for example, instead of referring to a property ‘appreciating’, we might say the value of the property goes up.”  

Clear and simple

Halls points to the terms and conditions for ANZ Plus, ANZ’s new digital banking app, as an example of a modern approach to customer communications.  “The terms are expressed in clear and simple language aimed at helping customers understand and engage with the product – it’s a long way from the overly complex legal contracts of the past”.

Halls says her role is constantly evolving as new issues impact customers. Recently this includes the increased threat posed by well-resourced criminal syndicates targeting Australians with scams. She’s encouraged by ANZ’s increased investment in new technologies to prevent and detect scams, together with the Federal Government’s establishment of the National Anti-Scams Centre.

“It feels like there’s genuine collaboration between government, regulators, banks, telcos and others to help protect consumers and make Australia an unattractive place for scammers”

As she does with fencing, Halls believes in what she is doing and is prepared to drive her point home.

“I think banking offers huge opportunities to deliver services in new and different ways. Fairness is a key component of that – at the end of the day, designing products which are simple, easy to use and provide value for money is good for customers and good for the bank.”

Jeff Whalley is a Journalist at ANZ bluenotes.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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