When did Bank Australia form?
We were founded back in 1957 by a group of scientists at the CSIRO who came together to create a credit union to help each other access finance. Since that time we’ve grown and brought together over 70 credit unions to become Bank Australia as it is today with over 150,000 customers.
What is its philosophy?
We’re driven by a clear purpose to create mutual prosperity and positive impact for people and the planet. We want to see people thrive a fair, just and progressive society, be part of a sustainable economy, and live in a safe and healthy environment. We do this through investing in positive social and environmental change, and supporting our customers with responsible banking products and services.
How does it differ from other banks?
At Bank Australia we say our money is clean because it is never loaned to industries that do harm. Instead we use money to help create positive impact for people, their communities and the planet. We also set aside 4% of our annual profits to invest in social and environmental projects that take action on the issues our customers are most concerned about.
We’re also customer owned, so that means we aren’t owned by shareholders that demand short term profits over long term sustainability. This allows us to put our customers’ interests, and the needs of our environment ahead of profit maximisation.
Explain how the bank is made up of credit unions and how this came about?
Over the past 62 years we’ve seen lots of smaller credit unions come together to grow and keep building a bigger bank. This has allowed diverse communities and groups from across Australia to grow a bank that continues to focus on putting people at the centre of everything it does.
How does the bank use its money?
We think it’s really important to use our customers’ money in positive ways that align with their values. This means we’ll never lend money to industries that cause harm to people or the planet like the fossil fuel sector or weapons industry. Instead we help people to buy homes and live a good life, and we lend to organisations that create positive impact like community housing providers, renewable energy projects and not-for-profits.
What are some positive initiatives that Banks Aust is working on?
We’ve just announced that we become the first bank in Australia to run on 100% renewable electricity. We committed to doing this by 2020, so we’ve managed to get there one year early which is something we’re really proud of.
What are some positive impacts Bank Aust has already made?
We’ve owned a nature conservation reserve that’s almost 1000 hectares in size since 2008. The reserve is all about protecting an important piece of land that has important biodiversity and cultural heritage value. Our aim is to protect the habitat of threatened plant and animal species like the South Eastern Red Tail Cockatoo and to help their numbers recover.
What is challenging about being a bank?
We’re focused on helping people to understand how banks use their money because it’s something a lot of people aren’t aware of. We all know that you put money in the bank, it earns interest and then you take it out to use. But what a lot of people don’t know is what banks do with their money once they deposit it. It doesn’t just sit there waiting for us, instead banks use it to lend to people and businesses, and what they do with that money shapes the world that we live in. We want people to ask their bank how their money is used, and think about whether it is being used in ways that aligns with their personal values.
Many people are suspicious of banks, what do you say to this?
There’s a fair bit of cynicism and distrust of banks at the moment, so it can be challenging to convince people that there are real alternatives for people to find a bank that aligns with their values. We’re also focused on showing people that there is another way for banks to operate, and that it’s possible for a bank to be financially strong while putting the needs of people and the planet before profit.
How easy is it to change over to Bank Aust?
Super easy. You can open an account online or over the phone in 5 minutes, or come in and see us at one of our branches.
What do you hope Bank Australia achieves in the future?
We want to grow so that we can keep increasing the positive impact we make on behalf of our customers.