Today I announced we are bringing back around 1000 jobs to Australia from overseas, marking a further step in transforming our business for the better.
Specifically, the roles will support Westpac’s call centres, as well as provide processing and operational assistance to functions like home lending and consumer finance, and mean all dedicated voice roles will return to Australia.
When a customer calls us, they will be answered by someone in Australia. This has partly been made possible due to the extraordinary shift in work patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic and upgrade to our technology infrastructure in recent years, enabling teams to work effectively at home or in other locations.
While we expect productivity benefits over time from today’s changes, there’s clearly a cost to adding 1000 roles – likely an around $45 million per annum uplift in our costs by the end of Full Year 2021.
But there are many longer-term benefits.
Despite the amazing efforts of our people, the surge in demand for customer assistance in the wake of COVID-19 exposed underlying challenges in our home lending processing and call centres that needed to be addressed, including risks relating to offshore disruption.
Once our plans announced today are implemented over the next 12 months or so we will have reduced these risks and be better placed to provide improved support for our customers every time. In short, our operations will be stronger and more resilient.
More broadly, the new roles will also provide welcome support to the economy amid the sharpest downturn in decades, creating 1000 employment opportunities to both new and existing employees across regional and metro areas.
While no one knows what the coming years – let alone months – look like, the devastating hit to the jobs market from restrictions to suppress the virus is already playing out, the unemployment rate lifting to levels not seen since the late 1990s, and underemployment even higher.
While the road ahead will be multifaceted and complex, anything governments and business can do to tackle the scourge of high unemployment will be needed in the years ahead, and we are cognisant of the important role we play in the economic rebuild as both a major employer and major bank. We also mustn’t lose sight of Australia’s many advantages and relatively good performance in managing what is clearly a once in a century health and economic crisis.
COVID-19 is creating an uncertain future and also accelerating much structural change already underway, such as the rise of the digital economy. But as Australia’s oldest bank, we know we cannot shy away from change, and bringing 1000 jobs back to Australia is just the latest step in the transformation of our business for the path ahead as the nation recovers, which we ultimately will.