Union urges banks to stop paying bonuses for debt product sales

The union that represents bank workers is calling for banks to stop paying workers bonuses for selling debt products like credit cards and life insurance.

FIRST union says workers feel stressed and unethical trying to sell products that don't always suit their customers.

ASB customer Leonie Dobbs has had enough of the hard sell from her bank. Ms Dobbs likens their sales approach to being asked 'would you like fries with that?' "It feels a bit like a McDonalds, like up-selling…I don't like it. If I want some extra service I'll ask for it."

ANZ customer Cilva White agrees. "They'll send you something and advise you you can have an increase in credit cards if you like - now that's just going to encourage some people to say easy, I'll take that on and it's an additional debt," she says.

They're both on board with the idea behind FIRST Union's campaign Service before Sales. It aims to get New Zealand's major banks to concentrate on customer service rather than selling customers debt. 

FIRST Union national organiser Tali Williams says it's all about "Ensuring bank employees when a customer comes in, they can engage with a customer's needs first and foremost rather than looking at them thinking how am I going to sell this person a home loan, personal loan or life insurance?"

David Baker worked in banks for 17 years. He felt uncomfortable with the constant pressure to sell financial products, and felt as though the industry was pushing to sell rather than to provide for the needs of the customer. "There was always that trade-off between service and sales within the industry," he says.

Our major New Zealand banks are owned by Australian banks, and they've all agreed with a report for the Australian Banker's Association calling for changes - including stopping bonuses being paid based on sales by 2020.

Although major banks here aren't obliged to do the same, Westpac says it will. The other three, ANZ, BNZ and ASB say they'll adopt whatever is relevant for customers here