Alwyn Poole
Founded and was the head of Mt Hobson Middle School in Auckland for 18 years. MH Academy is now an in person private school for Years 11–13. There is now a nationwide online provision called Mt Hobson Academy Connected for Years 1–13.

Back in the day I worked for a bank for a year to pay for my university study. The staff were valued, all customers were valued, service was very good and the branch often supported the community. Oh how things have changed.

I recently separated two business areas by forming a new company (an easy thing to do in NZ!) called BoI Adventures and Art to cover and

I then contacted Westpac as my business and personal bank (as in a whopping great mortgage). The reason was simply to open a new business account around two retail outlets and that had been a part of a company that I have always used Westpac for – i.e., simply separating one account into two with no changes to operations. A five-minute job one would think.

You can’t do it online with Westpac, or over the phone, so I dropped into my local branch and got told I needed an appointment and one was available about a week later. I duly turned up and spent an hour giving details they already had. At the end of the meeting the manager then told me he would now refer it to something called the business team (elsewhere) and they would get back to me within 10 days.

I received an email from a Westpac employee claiming to be an:

Onboarding Specialist  CDD Centre of Excellence 

  • he did not know what an information centre or retail art/homewares shop did.
  • he asked for – a business plan for two shops that had banked with them under my ownership for four years that addressed “business goals, start-up capital and cashflow forecast”.
  • and – “Will there be any one-off lump sums credited from your other business accounts once BOI Adventures and Art Limited Account is opened?”

This is on top of a conversation that was about the possibility of a seasonal overdraft – as is often needed in tourism industries. In the case the man at the end of the phone opened and started scrolling through my personal account commenting on how much I spend on groceries and how often I go to restaurants for dinner.

I did not proceed with Westpac and had first-hand experience to yet another barrier for SMEs. This is an institution that made $477 million profit in the first six months of 2024 while the country is in a recession.

However – none of them appear much better. When I was involved with South Auckland Middle School I calculated that providing uniform, stationery and IT was saving decile one families approx. $1,300 per student per year. I devised a plan where families could put that into a new bank account for their child at $25 per week. At the end of their four years they would then have $5,200 plus interest to either keep saved (and maybe add to) or spend on needed items through the Y11–13 years. I also looked in detail at a trust set-up that would allow these accounts to be conglomerated and to invest through a Milford-type entity as the sums are significant. The families and students would participate in the decision-making and it would not only be a savings platform but a teaching platform for financial literacy. A brilliant leg-up for the students.

I thought the first step would be easy … getting a bank to come out and open 180 accounts for the wonderful SAMS students.

Not a single bank was interested in the least – a range of reasons were given – including that they did not have staff resources to do that. Their social consciences have recently been seen forlornly wandering in the dark corners of the city at night. I know full well that if Kings College or St Cuthbert’s had made the same request they would have been there before the phone call ended.

Alwyn Poole
Innovative Education Consultants Ltd

This article was originally published on the author’s Substack.

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