All three of my children are/were part of the CBA’s school banking program, and I volunteered as the school banking coordinator for several years at their primary school.
The reason? Because the CBA school banking program is so good.
It’s a worry, then, that an ASIC report has led to left-leaning bureaucrats in Victoria shutting down the program, along with the other Labor strongholds of Queensland and the ACT.
Why am I a supporter of CBA schools banking? The interest rate on offer is attractive, and I’d suggest significantly better than most readers are receiving on their own bank account. At the time of writing, the available rate is 0.60%, as long as there have been no withdrawals and at least one deposit in the month. This is more than most term deposits.
School Parents and Friends associations receive some much-needed funds from the program too. Every time a student makes a total of ten banking deposits there is a $5 contribution to the P&F. In addition, a one-off $100 or $200 contribution is made to the P&F at the start of the year depending on the number of children participating in the program the previous year.
As for the children, they receive a token every time they make a deposit, and when they have 10 tokens they can claim a reward. These aren’t rubbish. They’re an incentive to save with items such as calculators and earbuds, along with old favourites like high bounce balls on offer.
The main benefit to the children though is not the attractive interest rate or the rewards. It is the process of willingly handing over their pocket money every week. Undoubtedly, this teaches the concept of saving — of handing over your money for delayed gratification rather than spending it now. The children also receive bank statements where they would see their very own money accumulate, and the amount of interest earned. These are practical life lessons.
Why ASIC would waste taxpayer funds and conduct an expensive and unnecessary investigation into such an innocent program in the first place is surprising. Is ASIC really that bloated that they need to dream up topics to occupy themselves and write reports on?
A key finding of the ASIC report is as dubious as their investigation: “School banking program providers fail to effectively disclose that a strategic objective of these programs is customer acquisition.”
I’m not sure whether this illustrates the intellect of the bureaucrats at ASIC, or their views on the intellect of the Australian public. This is a statement that varies between “Is the Pope a Catholic?” and a conspiracy theory. Either way, I suggest that if anyone does not realise that the CBA is running the program in order to acquire customers, they themselves should go back to primary school.
Perhaps the offence taken over such attempts to acquire customers is because in the socialist utopia that regulators would wish upon us, private enterprise would not need to seek new business as there would be no private enterprise. In fact, little initiative would be required for anything as there would be no incentive to do so — a key failing of socialism.
A large part of ASIC’s actions appears to have been driven by the “consumer group” Choice.
For some time there has been an unholy relationship between Choice and ASIC. A Parliamentary Joint Committee discovered that ASIC make payments for submissions from “consumer groups”, and also payments to representatives of ASIC’s “Consumer Advisory Panel“, of which Choice have a representative. This fact is virtually unknown outside the cosy little coterie of the bureaucracy and their client groups. It underlines the obvious; there is no widespread community support for ASIC’s actions. This is illustrated in ASIC’s very own finding:
Do you consider there are or may be benefits to students opening and maintaining bank accounts through a school banking program? Response: 20% No, 7% Unsure, 73% Yes .
Do you consider there are or may be negative consequences if financial institutions no longer offer bank accounts to students through school banking programs? Response: 38% No, 15% Unsure, 47% Yes.
In other words, ASIC has chosen to ignore public support for school banking — teaching children to save — and gone their own way.
ASIC would do well to reconsider their association with Choice. Choice are now pressuring Western Australia to follow suit with hysterical claims like, “West Australian kids deserve better than banks using their schools to sign them up for a life of debt”. If this is the extent of their analytical rigour, they should simply be ignored.
It’s worth noting that like most social justice warriors, there is also hypocrisy on display; the virtuous Choice were caught out a number of years ago for partnering with the group One Big Switch (,founded by a prominent member of Kevin Rudd’s team during his first term as prime minister) and receiving payments from a bank when people moved home loans.
As the school banking coordinator for over three years, and one of the few independent financial advisors around, I can speak with some authority, and impartiality, on the CBA school banking program. It is a win for the schools, a win for the students and a win for the Bank. I am just not sure which part of this concerns ASIC and Choice the most.
Equally, I am not sure why the Federal Liberal government decided to fund Choice with an additional $1.3 million of taxpayer funds in the recent Budget. One can only wonder why the current federal government funds activists to this extent. Surely #TheirABC is sufficient?
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