As the Australian economy continues its encouraging route back to health, it seems like the banking system has been recently afflicted by some trials, which affected the common course of banking operations. Only recently, the ABS published the real estate market report for August 2012, which showed surprisingly positive results and an improvement in housing loans for owner-occupiers. The announcement followed an improvement in the number of active workers, which, employers report, are three times more than expected. Meanwhile, the banks are offering ever more competitive credit card products. We compared credit cards, their interest rates and other terms via BankWest and found that there is a large number of interesting offers currently available. However, when it comes to banking activity proper—not all is well at all times in Australia, it seems.
In mid-October, the ANZ reported a glitch in its IT system that nearly sent the entire bank into a state of complete meltdown for the course of an entire afternoon. According to bank spokesperson Stephen Reis, the errors which prevented customers from accessing their online banking accounts, using the bank’s ATMs and paying via EFTPOS were quickly resolved. The same spokesperson also apologized for any potential inconvenience that these errors might have caused for the customers. The technology issues lasted for roughly two hours, from 12:45 until 2:10 p.m. on October 16, but the bank’s IT team took care of the problems and solved them in a matter of hours. The costs of these errors have not been reported or estimated.
Meanwhile, it seems yet another one of Australia’s major banks, Westpac, also experienced its share of issue over the same span of time. The bank’s representatives issued an official statement urging customers to be mindful of a hoax email circulating online. The email apparently asks people who have Westpac credit cards to enter a new set of personal information into an online database. It states that the bank’s informational and computer system was recently plagued by a virus, which caused most data to be erased. In order to restore that data, credit card holders are asked to click a link, which leads to a phishing website. Phishing is the term that defines online hoaxes, in which end-users forcibly reveal personal identification data. Supreet Thomas, Westpac’s spokesperson, informed that the bank did not send such an email and that its informational database is in perfect working order. She advised users not to click any suspicious links and immediately proceed to deleting the email.
These two events took place only a few days after the release of a Google survey indicating that Australia is ahead of Great Britain and the United States of America in terms of mobile online banking services. According to the cited poll, Australian smartphone owners are 65 per cent more likely to use smartphone e-banking apps than the Brits or the Americans. One bank alone, St George, has some 390,000 end-users of its online banking system. 75 per cent of those users are aged under 35, yet this is not the only demographic which shows potential for increase. Of all the customers who use the bank’s online services, such as checking their accounts, paying their bills or increasing their credit card limit, 40 per cent are doing it via smartphone applications.
The question these events point to is whether or not the banks themselves are prepared to handle the increased dependence of their customers on mobile and online technologies. While the two recent events that affected ANZ and Westpac remain relatively minor, with easily manageable malignant effects, it is highly important that those who choose to use online banking services do so with great precaution.