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In this guest blog, Karen Deignan of Net-Works interviews Elliot Anderson of National Australia Bank.
Good Money is a community-focused initiative providing safe and affordable financial services for people on low incomes across three states in Australia: Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. It is a partnership between National Australia Bank (NAB), Good Shepherd Microfinance, and the Victorian, South Australian and Queensland governments. Started in 2012, Good Money now has seven high street stores and employs 21 people. To date it has issued more than $4.2m in loans. Elliot Anderson is head of financial inclusion at National Australia Bank.
Karen: How did the idea for Good Money come about?
Elliot: National Australia Bank and Good Shepherd Microfinance had worked together since 2003. NAB had been supporting the growth of two microfinance programmes to help support people on low incomes: the No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) and the StepUP programme of low-interest loans.
We knew, from talking to the community organisations involved in delivering the programmes, that 70% of those accessing these loans were women. But our own research told us that financial exclusion was an issue confronting women and men almost equally. This discrepancy made us question what might have been stopping more men from accessing affordable financial services. One barrier seemed to be a reluctance to accept help from what they perceived to be charities; another was services not being visible enough in places people regularly walked by.
That’s when the concept for Good Money was born: a community finance store, located on the high street and open to everyone. It would give people on low incomes a safe and affordable alternative to high-fee credit and rent-to-buy companies, which typically charge very high interest rates and fees.
The Good Money concept was first piloted in 2012, with the opening of three stores in Victoria. In 2015 a fourth store was opened in South Australia. And in 2017, two new stores opened in Queensland and one more in Victoria, bringing the national total to seven.
Karen: What motivates you personally about being involved in Good Money?
Elliot: I’ve always been passionate about social justice. It stems from my family and my experiences growing up, seeing people close to me struggle with addiction and its financial impacts. When people are stressed about money and don’t have many options or the right support, it can lead to economic abuse (eg using money to control or blackmail someone) and violence. I want to help take the stress of money out of people’s lives and provide them with options, no matter who they are or what difficulties they are facing.
I also strongly believe that if we want to live in a better world, we ourselves need to be actively driving the change we want to see. And that means challenging the status quo. Large corporations, like NAB, have the ability to impact a significant number of people on a day-to-day basis through hundreds and thousands of customer interactions. It’s with this knowledge that in my role I try to harness the resources and capabilities we have within our organisation to make a positive social impact.
Karen: What challenges have you faced in setting up and growing Good Money?
Elliot: Supporting the set-up of Good Money was a logical step for NAB, given we’re a financial services company. We know it’s important to use the skills and expertise we have to make a difference on social issues that connect with our core business. We need to make sure that there are alternatives available to people who may be more vulnerable or who may be living on low incomes and cannot access our mainstream products and services.
But whilst it may be a logical step, that doesn’t make it easy to affect the scale of change needed to solve a social issue like financial exclusion. Tackling a challenge like this requires you to be creative with the solutions you come up with and to be open to partnering with others. Good Money is a great example of this. Good Shepherd Microfinance bring specialist knowledge based on more than three decades of providing financial support to communities, while NAB brings in-depth retail banking expertise (on everything from store design to customer service) as well as the capital to fund the loans.
Karen: What impact has the partnership with Good Shepherd Microfinance had within NAB?
Elliot: Employees at NAB are hugely proud of the work we do with Good Shepherd Microfinance on Good Money and other initiatives. For employees in our branches it means they are able to have a positive conversation with a customer who might not be suitable for our mainstream products and services. For others across the organisation who get involved in helping us support and deliver the programmes - be it our credit risk teams, marketing teams, or property and store development teams - it means they get to use their banking skills and expertise to support an initiative that is making real social change.
To highlight the impact these programmes can have, we often take teams of NAB employees out to the Good Money store in Collingwood (an inner suburb of Melbourne) to get a sense from customers about what being financially excluded is actually like. Hearing about the difference a low-cost $1,500 loan has made, in the customer’s own words, has a profound personal impact on the employees that attend these sessions. Afterwards, many of them are inspired to lead initiatives to further support Good Shepherd Microfinance. Or they look to find ways within their day-to-day role that they and their team can ensure NAB’s products and services promote financial inclusion.
Karen: What has been the high point of the journey so far for you?
Elliot: I’ve been involved in Good Money since the beginning. Watching it grow from a bold idea that a few colleagues had into seven stores across the country that help thousands of people every year, gives me a huge sense of pride. The highlight is always spending time in the Good Money stores with the teams that serve customers day-in, day-out, and seeing the care and compassion they give each and every person that walks in the door.
The financial inclusion team at NAB recently had a call from our hardship team (NAB Assist) about a customer who desperately needed extra money to buy a car so that she could escape a violent domestic situation. We put her in touch with her local Good Money store and the team there was able to help her through the process and connect her in with the right support to get her out of the situation she was in.
Karen: Where is Good Money going next?
Elliot: We’d love to be able to partner with more state governments to support a Good Money store in every state in Australia. There is a real need to develop sustainable and scalable business models to meet the needs of the 3 million people who don’t typically qualify for mainstream financial services. We hope that Good Money can play a central role in this.
Karen: What advice would you give to other intrapreneurs wanting to create an inclusive business?
Elliot: No matter what role you have in your company there are always opportunities to think about the social impact that your day-to-day decisions are having. The idea of inclusive business and shared value means delivering social impact and driving business returns. This is shifting the focus for innovation in companies. And the ideas to create change don’t just have to come from the corporate responsibility team, they can emerge from anywhere in the business. My advice to other intrapreneurs is to reach out to colleagues with your idea and begin finding like-minded people who can help you make it a reality.
This is the last in a five-part series of guest blogs from Net-Works and the League of Intrapraneurs highlighting the role of intrapreneurs in helping their companies become agents of positive change and create more inclusive businesses. See also When saving the world is your day job, How Interface and ZSL collaborated to create Net-Works, How Swiss Re and Oxfam joined forces to help African farmers, How Danone is partnering to boost recycling and create jobs and How eBay Korea broke down barriers for disabled customers.Good Money financial services National Australia Bank Good Shepherd Microfinance financial exclusion Australia