BNZ sets sights on tackling economic harm

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has acknowledged today, the first Economic Harm Awareness Day, the important work being done to tackle Economic Harm by Good Shepherd NZ and other Non-Government Organisations and is stepping up its efforts to tackle the issue.

BNZ has an economic harm support team and is cracking down on customers using its systems to send abusive and inappropriate messages.

BNZ General Manager Customer Assist, Martin King, says “New Zealand’s poor record of domestic and inter-partner violence is well-known, but one thing that isn’t well-known is the role of money in it.

“Money and finance are enormously powerful tools for good, but in the hands of a perpetrator, it can be used to create financial instability, to control, manipulate, and trap people, wreaking havoc both during the relationship and even long after the relationship has ended.

“We are enthusiastic supporters of Good Shepherd NZ’s work to raise more awareness of this issue, and we are proud to back New Zealand’s first Economic Harm Awareness Day,” says King.

BNZ announced in June 2020 it was the first bank in New Zealand to establish a dedicated economic and domestic violence banking team. In conjunction with Non-Government Organisations in the sector, the expert team works closely with victim survivors to help get back on their feet financially.

In May 2021 the bank also announced it was identifying and dealing with people sending abusive and inappropriate messages in the reference fields of bank transfers.

“We’ve made our position very clear – if you use our systems to abuse, stalk, or otherwise harm people, we’ll be in touch to help you to change your ways. But if you don’t work with us, you’re out.

“Sadly, in the last six months we’ve identified 12,000 of these transactions. A good number of these are payments with offensive words in the details, but we also look for the patterns as they often reveal the most concerning abusive behaviour.

“For example, we recently identified a customer who had been sending one cent payments every day to an ex-partner over the course of a few years. No message attached, just the transaction, so that every day, his ex-partner saw his name in their account. Every single day, with no escape. We raised this behaviour with him, and he reacted poorly, closing his account, and shifting to another bank before we could take the matter further,” says King.

King says that it’s clear that people know this behaviour is wrong.

“This underlines the importance of the work we’re doing, and the work of Good Shepherd NZ and Women’s Refuges, to address this issue. For us as a society to have any chance of stopping it, we need to draw attention to it, to drag it to the surface and see that it’s not okay.

“We commend the work of the government and NGOs on this so far, but if there’s one thing that’s clear this first Economic Harm Awareness Day, it’s that there’s plenty of work to do,” says King.