By Aimee Chanthadavong

In an aim to remain competitive, Westpac is investing more than a $100 million to boost its customer service in its retail division.

Jane Counsel, a Westpac spokesperson, told Retailbiz that for the last 18 months, the company has been progressively rolling out the Westpac Local initiative. It is designed to bring back the “grass roots” of banking by being better connected with local communities.

“Westpac is hoping that Westpac Local will differentiate us from the other banks by driving stronger customer advocacy and building stronger relationships in local communities,” she said.

“We are essentially going back to the future in our strategy by reinstalling our bank managers as beacons of respect and authority in their local communities – similar to the esteem bank managers once held in their local communities prior to the late 1980s.”

Now in the second phase, the initiative will continue to be rolled out over the next 12 months.

“Continued training and development will ensure that we can continue to meet the different requirements of our varied customer base,” Counsel said.

“The key changes we are looking at delivering to our customers include hiring bank managers with the benefit of local knowledge, who live and work in the local community; providing more face-to-face support for customers; and more authority by being able to make decisions at the local level without having to refer all decisions back to head office.

“Our local business bankers, located in most of our branch network, are also trained to specifically deal with the needs of small and medium businesses.”

Since the beginning of the initiative, 699 new bank managers and 59 regional managers have been hired across Australia.