And now of course, the floods in Queensland and NSW – our thoughts are also with those communities that are being directly impacted.
Over the last couple of days, as the devastation has become more obvious, we have launched our Emergency Assistance Package – which we have had a lot of practice with over the past few years – and we have also kicked off some fundraising activities.
We have made an initial contribution of $500,000 and made the CanGive feature– which is in the CommBank app – available for customers to donate. By early this morning, our very generous customer base had already donated over $100,000, which the CBA will match dollar for dollar.
I think we can all agree that with drought, bushfires, floods and the pandemic, it has been an extremely challenging few years for our country.
Despite these challenges, we’ve demonstrated time and again our strength of character and resilience.
Just before the pandemic started I was in regional NSW, meeting with customers to get a better sense of what they were going through with the drought.
Then in mid-2020 – through the first wave of the pandemic – I remember visiting communities in southern NSW recovering from bushfires.
And what struck me at the time about both those trips was the sense of enduring optimism and hope.
Despite the challenges that these communities were facing - they still looked forward with a picture of optimism about the future.
The pandemic, just like the weather we are experiencing at the moment, has completely been outside anyone’s control and has unfairly affected people, families, and businesses.
But it has also shown the remarkable resilience and adaptability of the Australian economy and our communities.
Unemployment is currently at 4.2 per cent, and we expect it to touch lows that haven’t been seen since the early 1970s. And the economy looks on track to grow by almost 5 per cent this year.
Looking beyond that immediate period of recovery, we see a brighter future. One that is more modern, resilient and prosperous.
And that is essentially the theme that I would like to talk with you about, today. Across the three areas that we believe are going to help shape Australia’s future over the next decade, and we hope the Commonwealth Bank can play an important role in part of that. Those three areas are:
- embracing digital
- transitioning to a lower carbon economy, and
- supporting Australian business.
The first area is digital.
Digital has already had a transformative effect across all of our lives – and this has, of course, only accelerated in the past two years.
We’ve all seen the profound benefits that come from having information at our fingertips, services on demand, and connectivity with friends and colleagues.
It is changing how we behave and how we interact.
The average millennial is spending about seven hours a day on their smartphone.
I remember reading a survey from a couple of years ago – admittedly with a relatively small sample size, so I don’t want to overstate the statistical significance. But, some of the facts stuck in my mind at the time. And they were:
- 38 per cent of millennials would be prepared to give up drinking alcohol for the rest of their lives versus giving up their mobile phone.
- 1 in 4 said they would prefer to give up one of their five senses.
- Most alarmingly, 1 in 10 said they would prefer losing a finger than live a life without a mobile phone.
Of course, that was all pre-COVID.
The average digitally-engaged customer in the 18-34 year old age group now logs into the CommBank app about 50 times per month.
But it’s not just millennials who are spending time online.
Just as many businesses have seen, we’ve seen a number of customers shift their behaviours over the course of the pandemic. We’ve seen an increase in the confidence of customers who are willing to shop online – often for essential groceries – and have since fully embraced digital.
As digital continues to reshape the globe as well as the Australian economy, we believe that the Commonwealth Bank can play an important part in shaping that future.
For us, we are really focussed on three things:
- Embracing and accelerating Australia’s digital economy;
- Finding new ways to bring real value to our customers; and
- Above all, keeping our customers safe.
In terms of enabling and accelerating Australia’s digital economy, we see the Consumer Data Right and new real-time Payments Platform as critical enablers.
As the Consumer Data Right is extended across industries, and customers become more confident, we see a range of new experiences, greater convenience, and new value being created for customers.
We are committed to taking a leading role in bringing some of this innovation to market, and were the first bank to be accredited under the Consumer Data Right.
In recent years, we have also chosen to have a much more active engagement with the fintech community, often through our venture-scaling entity, x15.
Most recently, we announced an investment in Paypa Plane, which is an Australian fintech that we are partnering with to bring some innovative user experiences to market, built on top of the New Payments Platform.
We recognise that digital is a rapidly changing space and we need to make sure we are deeply understanding and anticipating our customers’ needs into the future.
With this in mind, we’re about to commence a ground breaking four-year longitudinal research program to better understand young Australians whose lives have been shaped by connectivity, smartphones, gaming, crypto and the changing nature of work in a way that previous generations simply were not.
Through this study, in partnership with Macquarie University, we’ll be spending time and working closely with a broad cross section of customers, and combining this work with data, surveys and experiments to understand the lives of Australia’s young adults so that we can better anticipate their needs.
We are also very focused on how we can use digital to find new ways to bring real value to our customers with their everyday banking experiences.
Our customers log into our app between 6 and 10 million times each day.
Each time they visit the app, we want to create an experience that delivers value to them – and to do this we are connecting more and more services to deliver even greater sources of value.
We’ve helped customers access more than $500 million in entitlements through our Benefits Finder.
And, through our partnerships with More Telecom and Amber Electric, CBA customers now have the lowest cost access to the NBN, and also wholesale electricity prices.
And we’re looking at integrating more and more features like shopping discounts and offers, loyalty and rewards, and micro investing across a range of asset classes.
We are also investing very heavily in cyber security, fraud and scams – not just to keep the bank safe, but, importantly, to protect our customers.
Scams, unfortunately, are on the rise – increasing by 85 per cent over the last 12 months, with Australians losing more than $323 million.
The actual number is undoubtedly higher, given some of it goes unreported.
Being scammed can be a frightening experience, and we want to make sure that we have the best technology to detect and prevent it.
Last year, we believe we prevented or recovered more than $100 million in scams targeted at our customers, including $27 million that was directly aimed at those over 70.
Our Fraud Platform makes decisions in less than 70 milliseconds across approximately 100 million customer interactions a day and is equipped with real time decline and hold intervention capabilities, driven by fraud models and rules.
I’m sure everyone has been exposed to SMS/text message scams that are purportedly related to online purchases.
We fund and work closely with a company called IDCARE so that our customers have free assistance to real experts to help them recover from identity theft and contact all of their service providers at what can be a very stressful time.
From next month we will be starting to add behavioural biometrics into our fraud detection. Behaviour biometrics can include information such as how your computer is configured, what devices you may be using, patterns you may be using – including keystrokes. All of this will be fed into our fraud detection engine to help detect irregularities and protect customers.
Through all of this work, we see the CommBank app as the trusted centre of our customers’ financial lives – and we will continue to bring more convenience, more value and more security to really empower our customers.
Transitioning to a lower carbon economy
The second force that we believe will help reshape Australia is the transition to a lower carbon economy.
Australia’s natural resources provide a real opportunity to become a global source of renewable energy and carbon offsets.
I preface these comments with a clear intent in our mind of our policy to ensure Australia has a secure energy platform – a topic that has become even more prominent in recent days.
Over the last two years we have really sharpened our focus on our role in decarbonising the economy.
We’ve been able to engage with a number of stakeholders like Market Forces and interested shareholders such as the Abrahams to really understand the importance of CBA’s role in the transition to a low carbon economy.
Those engagements are valued by us and will continue.
We are continuing to deepen our capability, by investing in our people, products and processes, in order to respond to the challenges of climate change. And I wanted to share some of our progress in these areas.
We are a signatory to the Net Zero Banking Alliance and are committed to taking action to drive down emissions across our portfolio.
We recently changed our target to limiting global temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees.
We see our primary role as helping to allocate capital to support the economic transformation required.
Beyond this, we’re really focused on three particular areas:
- Defining Australia’s transition pathway;
- Transitioning our portfolio and operations; and
- Helping our customers to transition.
Global modelling of the transition does not sufficiently reflect Australia’s context and this limits its usefulness to inform decarbonisation pathways and investment options to guide industry adaptation in Australia.
We’ve partnered with Australia’s leading science agency, CSIRO, to develop the optimal decarbonisation pathways for 10 priority sectors, including power generation, real estate, manufacturing, transport and agriculture.
They are intended to support Australia’s private and public decision making, considering not only the change in capital allocation required, but, very importantly, the implications on people, jobs and livelihoods to ensure an inclusive and prosperous transition.
We will use this work to help transition our own portfolio.
We need to be able to measure emissions within our portfolio relative to the glidepaths developed with CSIRO.
We are building models to be able to measure emissions at the level of an individual household, business or agricultural property.
For example, for many of our household customers, we can see through transaction data that we have, what their annual spend on electricity, gas, and petrol, and therefore we are able to calculate their emissions.
For those households where we don’t have transaction data, we have developed a proprietary model to measure emissions based on several attributes such as the year of construction, size, location of the property, or the energy mix and carbon intensity of electricity in that region.
This allows us to fairly accurately measure emissions at a household level.
We are also working directly with our customers to help them transition.
This requires both allocating capital to low-carbon technologies and providing insights to help customers make changes in their behaviours.
On the former, we’ve committed to $70 billion of cumulative sustainable funding through to FY30.
We are already financing renewable energy, such as Snowy Hydro 2 and a number of infrastructure projects that are required to upgrade our electricity grids.
We also provide financing where the cost of capital is linked to sustainability outcomes, for example emissions reductions, indigenous employment or sustainable farming practices.
Households also need capital – and even though rooftop solar panels and batteries result in lower emissions and pay for themselves in terms of a household’s monthly cashflow, the upfront capital outlay is a barrier for many.
To help, we’ve launched a green loan product – which is fixed for 10 years at 0.99 per cent to finance the cost of rooftop solar or a battery.
We’re also helping enable behaviour change, for example in the CommBank App we are currently piloting a feature that allows customers to understand their own emissions and take action to reduce or offset them.
We have also just established a new four year climate research program with researchers from Harvard.
We’ve been working with this group of researchers on a number of topics and we have decided to consolidate our efforts, so that we can work closely on product and feature design, to make it easier for our customers to take action.
We also see a big opportunity to really enable the establishment of voluntary carbon markets.
These markets will help clients generate additional income through activities that reduce or avoid carbon in the atmosphere.
This includes activities such as carbon capture and storage, reforestation, and sustainable farming practices such as increasing soils ability to absorb carbon.
Equally, we have some clients in hard to abate sectors that need to purchase these offsets to meet their climate commitments.
We believe our job, as Australia’s largest financial institution, is to use our large footprint and strong capital base to facilitate demand meeting supply, and hence help Australia meets its net zero commitments.
Having banking relationships with businesses across the complete value chain – from miners of rare earth minerals, to solar panel manufacturers, to the small business solar installers, to home owners themselves, provides us with a unique perspective.
In these ways, we hope to be able to play our part in enabling the transition to a more modern, resilient and sustainable economy.
And the third force that will shape Australia’s economy is, of course, business.
There is no doubt that the last few years have been very challenging for many businesses around the country.
To give businesses of all sizes time to get back on their feet, during the pandemic we deferred more than 80,000 business loans, and funded about half the loans in the Government’s SME Loan Guarantee Scheme.
We ran seminars to help small businesses navigate through the Government programs and benefits available to them. We’ve also offered free wellbeing assistance programs to business customers to help them through the worst effects of the pandemic.
While some sectors and businesses are undoubtedly still struggling, we continue to see a rise in activity which we believe will accelerate as restrictions are further eased and confidence resumes over the course of the year.
And small businesses will be there, driving this growth – as the largest employers in the country, and the best able to innovate and take advantage of favourable business conditions.
Looking beyond the next few years, businesses are also best placed to embrace and benefit from Australia’s digital and decarbonisation transformation.
That’s why we are very focused on:
- Allocating capital to productive parts of the economy;
- Helping business with new tools and advice; and
- Directly helping businesses grow.
We’ve been investing behind small and medium businesses, and have increased lending in our business bank by $20 billion over the past two years, growing roughly twice the rate of the broader market.
We’re also trying to deliver funding to sectors of real importance that we see as essential to Australia’s economy. For example, we’ve made more than $8 billion in lending available in health care and agriculture – a 33% increase in the past year.
While investment is absolutely essential, we’ve backed this up with improved service, advice, product innovation and support.
We have put an additional 430 business bankers in business centres around the country. And, our investment in technology is also making it easier for businesses to do business with us.
Our new BizExpress lending product is now able to fund a loan in less than 15 minutes.
New smart payment terminals have the ability to connect with a range of apps and services and are now rolling out across the country.
We’ve had over 6,000 people attend business seminars that we have run on a variety of topics, including cyber security, carbon, climate, and the economy, to make sure they have the information to embrace some of the big structural shifts that we see occurring in the years to come.
And we are directly helping businesses find new revenue streams.
I’ve already talked about the potential from carbon credits. But, we are also very focussed on connecting our one million business customers with over 11 million of our retail customers.
By using our digital reach and engagement, we’re working to allow businesses to provide unique offers that benefit CBA retail customers, and drive incremental sales for our business customers at the same time.
We’ve also made a number of investments in this space.
We recognise that different customer cohorts have different shopping preferences. For example, we have partnered with a fintech called Little Birdie for deals and offers. We’ve built a service called Cheddar for cashback, complementing our existing CommBank Rewards offers platform.
These businesses provide channels for our business customers to access different customer cohorts, to clear excess inventory, and to maintain brand integrity.
We are committed to Australian businesses, and will continue to invest to differentiate our proposition and grow with our business customers as they drive the country forward.
Our purpose at the Commonwealth Bank is simple: building a brighter future for all.
We certainly see a brighter future for Australia – one that is more digital and lower carbon, and powered by small businesses right across the country.
We are in such a fortunate position to be the trusted financial partner in the lives of so many people and businesses.
This is an incredible privilege and one that we will never take for granted. We recognise it is incumbent on us to earn that trust on a daily basis.
Our scale puts us in the unique position to play an important role in supporting the country through the bad times, but also being a structural accelerant in the better times.
By investing more than $1.5 billion each year, and particularly in technology, we aim to help more businesses, and drive new solutions in the vitally important areas of the economy.
This investment will allow us to continue to deliver the best experiences for our customers, enabled by the leading technology, in order to build a brighter future.
The 40,000 people of the Commonwealth Bank, particularly me, look forward to the opportunity to keep doing so in the years ahead.