According to the survey of 1,000 Australians conducted in November 2017 to assess consumer perceptions of the Banking Reform Program, 77 per cent of respondents believe their bank is “becoming more customer-focused”, up from 63 per cent when the research was last conducted in June 2017.
Further, 86 per cent of surveyed Australians believe their bank “helps customers navigate choices to make the best decision”.
However, while still low, levels of “high trust” in the banking industry also rose marginally to 32 per cent in November from 31 per cent in June.
Distrust in the banking sector, however, with those saying they have “low trust” in the banks, grew by 1 per cent, from 27 per cent in June to 28 per cent in November.
Australian Bankers’ Association deputy chief executive officer Diane Tate believes the research is an “encouraging” sign for the industry.
“Although there’s still a long way to go to restore trust and confidence in the industry, it’s encouraging that the impact of these reforms is being recognised by customers and making an impact on the ground,” Ms Tate said.
“The banks recognised that they needed to change and began undertaking the largest program of reforms in decades.”
The research also revealed that more Australians believe banks are “stable” (from 48 per cent to 52 per cent), “reliable” (from 43 per cent to 46 per cent), “focused on customer needs” (from 27 per cent to 28 per cent) and “open and transparent with banking fees and terms” (from 24 per cent to 27 per cent).
However, amid reports of misconduct in the banking sector, the survey also noted a fall in the number of Australians who believe the banks are “well regulated” (from 43 per cent to 40 per cent), “ethical” (24 per cent to 19 per cent) and “led by highly regarded leaders” (21 per cent to 17 per cent).
Perception of the banking industry as a “progressive and innovative” force also dropped (from 34 per cent to 31 per cent).
However, Ms Tate believes that the industry is beginning to reap the benefits of reform programs.
“This new research is a sign that more customers are experiencing the benefits of change in the way banks conduct their business,” Ms Tate said.
“Through the Banking Reform Program – Better Banking, banks have been changing their practices to be more transparent and make it easier for individuals and small business to do their banking.”
The majority (55 per cent) of surveyed respondents also said they thought their bank is concerned with what’s good for customers, up from 44 per cent in June.
When judging the importance of individual banking reforms, Australians scored 70 per cent or higher to more than half of the initiatives.
The research complements the work of Ian McPhee AO, the independent governance expert overseeing the implementation of the Better Banking reforms.
[Related: Banks agree to new code of practice]