Banking service impacting lives in the Highlands – Post Courier

August 15, 2017

Little things that people often take for granted, can for some, make a world of difference.This rings true of a banking service that Westpac Bank launched in March, 2017, by Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, during the 32nd Australia/PNG Business Forum and Trade Exposition held in Port Moresby.

Called Choice Wantok, it is a low-cost option from Westpac specifically designed for people in rural or remote communities who are not able to speak to a banker, visit a bank branch or an ATM.
In its continued effort to reach out to the masses, a team of officers from the bank on Thursday, August 3, visited Kagamuga Primary School.
The purpose was to hand out new Choice Wantok cards and PINs to customers.
The team had put up marquees, with red and white Westpac balloons, to celebrate the occasion.
During the event, customers were shown how to make deposits, top up their phones and use InStores with their new Choice Wantok accounts.
Twenty-six year old Alice Peter from Koibuka village, Mt Hagen, was among the many who converged on the school to participate.
Alice said was really excited to open her first ever bank account. “I have always been frightened of going into a bank, so having an InStore service in my nearest trade store really helps. And I love having my name on the card!”
Ms Peter registered for mobile banking and made her first deposit. “Mi hamamas olsem, me ken depositim moni na sekim balens long mobile phone bilong mi,” she said.
Using digital options, such as InStores and mobile banking, Choice Wantok customers can save regularly, pay bills, and send and receive money to and from family and friends.
There are no monthly fees and frequent banking is encouraged. The facility has been developed by Westpac’s Innovation Hub in Mt Hagen.
Ghandi Katao, manager of the Westpac Innovation Hub, said: “This is an exciting time for the Highlands. We created the first Innovation Hub in PNG to develop and test ideas and products that really work for Papua New Guineans, especially women and farmers. Until now, the products and services available haven’t really suited the needs of rural Highlanders. But this is all going to change. Choice Wantok is a new way of looking at banking in rural areas – with people at the centre. We’re using the latest technology and the latest thinking in product development so that we can design products specifically tailored for Papua New Guineans.”
Choice Wantok is a joint enterprise between Westpac, the Australian Government and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program, a UN agency.
Mark Flaming, manager of PFIP said they have helped 1.5 million Pacific Islanders access formal financial services.
“We know the positive impact access to safe and affordable financial services has especially on women, allowing them to manage their money and improve their livelihoods,” Mr Flaming said.
PFIP’s funding of USD1.75 million aims to reach the many remote communities in PNG, and bring more Papua New Guineans into the formal financial sector, helping to improve their lives.
Adrian Hughes, managing director of Westpac PNG said: “Choice Wantok will help people in remote and rural communities save their money. And having access to savings means people are able to plan for the future and build resilience against shocks, like illness or crop loss. This is vital for those in these communities.
“Choice Wantok will also help customers develop a banking history to use loan products so they can make big purchases like farm equipment or property.
“It will also reduce security issues for people carrying cash – and reduce the use of unregulated financial services like loan sharks.”