Product design around traditional financial support system
Up until 2017, only 10% of the population in the Highlands were using formal financial services. Westpac believes that understanding people, their culture, values, and the way things work for communities and linking those insights to the design of financial services can greatly improve the uptake and usage of those services. The ‘Choice Wantok’ savings account that Misa uses is a re-engineered bank account from Westpac to test new financial services that are tailored to the needs of lower income Highlanders.
Funded through a grant from the European Union and the Australian Government, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) has been working with Westpac to test this hypothesis, using an innovation lab approach. The Westpac Innovation Hub is looking at how the traditional ‘wantok’ system can inspire Highlanders, especially women and smallholder farmers, to adopt and use financial services to improve their daily lives.
Translated ‘wantok’ means ‘one talk’, implying strong social bonds. Often described as an impediment to development in Melanesian countries, the ‘wantok’ system brings together communities or tribes to share obligations such as debt, cost of funerals, or simply an unspoken understanding that when your family needs your help, you must provide it without question.
Product iterations based on what works for people
The Innovation Hub has been testing and validating new financial services and delivery models in the Highlands. For example, the Hub has worked in the past couple of months on improving the customer experience during the account opening process.
When the Westpac teams open accounts in the communities, they ensure that community leaders are present and act as witnesses to meet Westpac’s ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) requirements as many Highlanders lack formally recognised photographic identification. During the same process, customer information is collected through manual forms then entered into Westpac’s banking system within two days of sign up. This is followed by a notice to the head office in Port Moresby to create new debit cards for these clients. However, printing of the new cards and sending these back to the Highlands at times took up to a month. Westpac found that very often clients could not be traced back, or they lost interest in the service, which in turn resulted in low usage and activity rates. The whole process proved to be too cumbersome and did not cater for these types of clients. The team from the innovation hub has integrated these learnings and is currently testing on-site account opening and instant card issuing to ensure customers can immediately use the services once they have opened the account.
During the field-testing, Westpac’s Innovation Hub team also discovered that not all innovation needs to be technical or digital. Sometimes simple changes in the approach can make a big difference. Whilst they found out that the majority of their initial customers were men, through observations and testing of basic tweaks to their sales approach, they began to onboard more women, for instance by simply providing a separate account opening queue specifically for women.
The Innovation Hub project aims to onboard 15,000 additional low-income customers in the Highlands by September 2019 and anticipates that the project will lead to 100,000 additional customers benefiting from the new changes and services on offer.
Misa’s bank account empowered her and allowed her ‘to save for a rainy day’. Now, making a deposit or withdrawal can easily be done in her own community and for the first time, she can actually save using a bank account, rather than putting it under her mattress.