Enhancing customer protection and support

Almost two years into my role at ANZ, the challenges affecting our customers are as broad and varied as ever.

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Being focused on customer fairness means we must pay close attention to the evolving issues impacting our customers and do our best to support them in times of need.

"ANZ continues to invest in innovative detection and prevention measures to stay ahead of the criminals who are creating new scams and frauds on a weekly, if not daily, basis.” 

Part of my role includes providing advice to guide ANZ’s decision making on the fairness of our products and services for retail and small business customers.

Two of the issues foremost in the minds of many customers right across the financial services spectrum are hardship and scams.

We’ve all seen news stories about people who have been affected, and sometimes devastated, by increasingly sophisticated fraud and scams in our communities.

While the prevalence of scams seems to have increased in recent years, we are encouraged to see the numbers of reported fraud or scams in Australia have fallen over recent months.

For ANZ, customer scam losses through ANZ Classic accounts for the first half of FY24 fell by a third compared with the second half of FY23 while our controls prevented over $100 million of customer funds going to cyber-criminals in the twelve months to March 2024.

The downwards trend in losses is partly due to the increased friction we have put in place to slow down the payment process but is also thanks to our enhanced Falcon technology detecting more suspicious transactions. In fact, currently most of the customer complaints we receive about fraud and scams relate to transactions being blocked due to suspected fraud.

ANZ continues to invest in innovative detection and prevention measures to stay ahead of the criminals who are creating new scams and frauds on a weekly, if not daily, basis. This includes:

  • Piloting a dedicated team of specialists in our customer protection team who handle calls about fraud and scams.
  • The recently introduced Crypto Protect feature, which turns off the ability for ANZ Plus customers to make payments to cryptocurrency exchanges, unless they choose to override it. This type of friction is important when it comes to these exchanges as they have typically received about half of all scams proceeds.  
  • We have built in additional friction and delays to specific payment destinations which we have identified as having a high scam or fraud risk. These destinations are updated on an ongoing basis to reflect the latest data.
  • Building on our existing scam warnings, this year we will also introduce personalised messages to inform ANZ Classic customers when a transaction or activity is considered high risk, as well as a new Scam Scoring model using artificial intelligence to boost our scam detection capability.

Education and prevention

Education is critical. We’re mobilising our MoneyMinded financial literacy program by working with our community partners to deliver new scam awareness workshops, through our network of coaches in the community sector.

And we’ve established a partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence to deliver scams awareness modules directly to the most vulnerable people in the community.

On ANZ Plus, we’ve added key Scam Safe measures that customers can activate for additional security, including protection against screen sharing and the ability to detect a range of potentially risky apps.

Education, prevention and detection are critical, but what happens if a customer loses money to a scam? Once we become aware of a scam, we make every effort to recover lost funds, including contacting the bank where the funds have been sent.

The ability to recover funds depends largely on how quickly the scam is reported to us, given the speed with which funds are transferred onwards by scammers.

Where a customer’s funds can’t be recovered, we review each case to seek to understand exactly how the scam occurred and work through a series of principles to determine whether the funds should be reimbursed.

ANZ continues to work closely with other banks, across industry sectors and with government and regulators to proactively identify and address scam trends so that together we can stay ahead of scammers and protect Australians from emerging threats.

This includes through the Federal Government’s new cutting-edge intel loop - an exchange between banks, telcos, digital platforms and the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange (AFCX), enabling near real-time data sharing about the latest tactics and tools used by scammers.

Financial hardship

Another issue affecting a portion of our customer base is financial hardship.

The number of customers in hardship has been rising slowly over the past year or so and while still lower than it has been in the past, it is an extremely concerning and distressing time for each of these customers.

The drivers have been consistent over the last two years - primarily reduced income, increased commitments, medical reasons, unemployment and separation.

We are delivering an action plan to improve the experience and outcomes for our customers seeking hardship support. We want to ensure that our hardship processes are simple, accessible and easy to use, and provide sustainable outcomes suitable to each customer’s individual circumstances.

The action plan is focused on five key areas:

1.    Improving policies, procedures and training for our people

2.    Ensuring executive level end-to-end oversight

3.    Enhancing our customer communications so they are clearer and more personalised

4.    Evolving our customer experience through reporting and surveys, and

5.    Providing specialist support to vulnerable customers in financial hardship.

Our dedicated team of people in Customer Connect work with customers to tailor the support available to best suit their needs and individual situation.

When a customer applies for hardship, this team will speak with them to understand their situation and discuss the options available. That could include providing short-term options such as a loan repayment pause, partial payment reduction or interest-only payments, or longer-term solutions such as reviewing and restructuring loan terms and repayment.

Looking ahead, we anticipate that hardship numbers will rise further given the external environment, but customers who are struggling should be assured we are here to support them.

Part of being an advocate for customer fairness is ensuring we are doing everything we can as a bank to treat our customers in a fair and equitable manner.

ANZ’s work with our customers across scams and hardship reflects our commitment to embedding fairness principles into our day to day interactions with customers; we won’t lose sight of this goal.

Evelyn Halls OAM is Customer Fairness Advisor, ANZ

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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