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Connexus : Issue 42
multi-branding and that r ules are needed to address the matter. "We don't decry anybody having a niche brand or another brand or a sub-brand approach, but clarity about ownership should be on the table,” he says. The Balance Banking campaign should help bring to light such issues, says Walsh, who advocates transparency in advertising. "The government has done it around comparison rates for credit, but if people are going to an Aussie or a RAMS thinking they're an independent mortgage broker, when they're owned by two of the major banks, it's appropriate that they know who they are dealing with,” he says. "It creates a veneer of competition when there's not one.” Petschler says Abacus is determined to expose issues such as multi-branding through the Balance Banking campaign. “I think there really is a case, based on the research we've seen and the way the marketing's been presented, to say that consumers aren’t getting the full picture.” Also high on the campaign agenda, says Petschler, is reminding government, industry and the public that it has been almost 20 years since the last review of the banking system. “No-one wants to sacrifce stability or the strength of our system, but bringing an element of consumer interest and competition into that space is only going to help in making sure we have the most competitive system we can have.” Upping the ante People's Choice Credit Union, bankmecu, Teachers Mutual Bank and CUA are among a band of mutuals that have undertaken rebranding efforts in recent times as part of efforts to grow. James believes credit unions, building societies and mutual banks must keep reinventing themselves through internal strategies and sector-wide campaigns such as Balance Banking. In adopting the mutual bank tag, he notes that Teachers Mutual has not lost any existing members, but has picked up a raft of new ones. "When we go out to our members now, we don't talk about what a credit union is -- we talk about our products and ser vices. We’re not going to just sit back and wait for the government to promote us. We have to promote ourselves and really show the Australian public there is a true alternative out there in the mutuals.” Whitehead says it is "incumbent on the industry to do its bit”. "To me, this is all about relevance in the long term. [That means] growing and acquiring new, younger customers. The challenge for the industry is that many institutions aren’t doing that.” At bankmecu, Walsh adds that this federal election year presents a unique opportunity for all customer owned banks. "I'm going to be an optimist and say we have to play both sides of politics here. The Liberals have put themselves out as supporting a review of the banking sector, so our opportunity is to infuence the commitment they’ve already made to the public.” Evers, at People's Choice, hopes both sides of politics are listening to the desire of the population for more banking competition. “I don’t think there’s a better time to seek clarity about both major political parties’ policies in banking.” He stresses, however, that individual mutuals must do the hard yards themselves and not simply rely on sector-wide promotion. "You have to get your business focus right, your strategy right, your proposition right and go out and communicate that.” Meanwhile, the immediate focus for Petschler is the Balance Banking campaign, which is already delivering results, she says. "Even the research we used to launch the campaign points to the fact that consumers generally want to see a more competitive and contestable banking system,” she says. “We don’t want to see a situation, like in our supermarkets for example, where you end up with a couple of extremely dominant players who can control every aspect of the value chain all the way through.” Petschler encourages credit unions, building societies and mutual banks to start having a conversation with their communities and customers about Balance Banking. "So the opportunity we need to look to is working together in the national debate, and also working with those communities and getting those messages out to them,” Petschler says. Cameron Cooper is a freelance writer. I don't think there's a better time to seek clarity about both major political parties' policies in banking. Peter Evers, managing director, People’s Choice Credit Union CoverStory 34 Connexus