One of Australia's largest banks Westpac (ASX: WBC) has made the decision to bring its call centres back to Australia, returning around 1,000 jobs that were previously done overseas.
The new Australia-based roles are also expected to provide processing and operational assistance to functions like home lending and consumer finance, although a Westpac spokesperson said some processing - particularly in IT - would remain offshore.
The bank said the decision followed a surge in demand for customer assistance at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which created challenging conditions for home lending processing and call centres.
"While we have added additional resourcing to support unprecedented demand following COVID-19, and I thank our teams who have worked tirelessly helping customers, at times our response rates have been too slow," Westpac chief executive officer Peter King said.
"Today's announcement is a further step in transforming our business and mortgage operations, helping to support local employment, reducing the risk of offshore disruption, and accelerating our ability to simplify processes through digitisation.
"We will also be returning all dedicated voice roles to Australia to enhance the capacity of our existing call centres. This will mean when a customer calls us, it will be answered by someone in Australia."
He said changing work patterns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and technology infrastructure upgrades made bringing jobs back to Australia possible.
"Together these have enabled our teams to operate effectively at home or in other locations when needed," the CEO said.
"Implementation will take about 12 months, allowing time to work through existing obligations with our overseas partners and to develop the best service model for the new jobs here in Australia.
"We plan to fill the roles with new and existing employees, with the jobs distributed across regional and metro areas."
It has now been more than eight years since Westpac announced it would cut 560 jobs as part of an offshoring strategy, which was followed by progressive job cuts over the years.
A Westpac spokesperson was unable to provide a total figure as to how many jobs had been lost over the past decade as part of the shift.
Westpac sets an example for others
Following the announcement, the Finance Sector Union of Australia (FSU) is calling on all Australia's banks to follow Westpac's lead and repatriate thousands of jobs sent offshore.
FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said Westpac workers would celebrate the return of jobs offshored to low-wage economies in Asia over many years.
"The Finance Sector Union has long campaigned against the offshoring of Australian back-office and call-centre jobs to Asia," Angrisano said.
"COVID-19 has shown the folly of sending jobs that were once done in Australia offshore to places like India and the Philippines.
"We have seen too many jobs sent overseas in the name of increasing bank profits and it's time every Australian bank and financial services institution brought those jobs home."
Angrisano emphasised there had always been concerns over the security of sending the financial information of Australian consumers offshore.
"Every FSU member around Australia will welcome Westpac's move and consumers will benefit by having Australian workers providing their banking needs here in Australia," she said.
"Westpac has listened to our campaign and recognised that as an Australian bank, with its business in Australia, that it should be employing Australians first.
"Economic recovery following Covid-19 will be a major priority for the foreseeable future and what we need is a national reconstruction plan to get Australians into good, well-paying jobs.
"These jobs will create pathways for banking workers into other parts of the banking and the financial services sectors more broadly."Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
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