Westpac is moving 1000 jobs that are being carried out in India and the Philippines back to Australia after complications in overseas operations led to slow customer service and cost the lender valuable business during the pandemic.
The country’s second-largest bank pointed to a surge in customers needing assistance and delays in its home loan processing and call centres as it announced it would bring the jobs back to Australia.
Westpac will fill some of the roles by re-deploying existing staff, but also plans to hire new workers to fill the positions over the next year as its obligations to overseas providers are worked through.
“While we have added additional resourcing to support unprecedented demand following COVID-19 — and I thank our teams who have worked tirelessly helping customers — at times our response rates have been too slow,” chief executive Peter King said.
“Today’s announcement is a further step in transforming our business and mortgage operations, helping to support local employment, reducing the risk of offshore disruption, and accelerating our ability to simplify processes through digitisation.”
While the move was expected to ultimately boost productivity, the creation of the 1000 local roles would initially add $45 million in annual costs by the end of its next financial year, the bank said.
Westpac’s mortgage portfolio contracted in May, according to analysts at Macquarie, who said it was a “concerning trend” linked to problems with loan processing.
While the bank will keep some of its operations overseas, Mr King said that if a customer called the bank, their call would be answered by someone in Australia.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused tens of thousands of bank employees to work from home, and Mr King said these changes in work patterns, and investments in technology, meant it was possible to return the roles to Australia.
The Finance Sector Union, which has long criticised “offshoring” by banks, welcomed Westpac’s move and called on other lenders bring jobs back to Australia.
Commonwealth Bank has all of its call centres in Australia and National Australia Bank’s customer call centres are locally based as well. ANZ Bank, which has some call centre staff in Manila, said call centre and hardship teams in Australia have been growing recently.
FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said creating secure jobs should be a top priority for Australia in attempts to revive the economy after the harsh impact of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has shown the folly of sending jobs that were once done in Australia offshore to places like India and the Philippines,” she said.
“We have seen too many jobs sent overseas in the name of increasing bank profits, and it’s time every Australian bank and financial services institution brought those jobs home.”