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Agencies bank on finance flow

LOCAL advertising agencies are facing another major client pitch with the announcement that BankWest is keen to talk to the industry ahead of a big push into new markets.

BankWest has doubled its annual marketing budget, pushing it up towards $10 million to support its bid for a share of the small to medium sized business market on the east coast of Australia.

Banks all over Australia are facing increased competition from building societies and credit unions

Peak industry body the Credit Union Services Corporation is looking around for an agency in the eastern states to handle a multi-million dollar account for a unified e-commerce platform.

A unified e-commerce approach for credit unions across Australia will give them the capability to launch a serious attack on the banks.

BankWest is the only bank serviced by a local advertising agency.

BankWest director of communications Don McLean said expressions of interest had been sent out to a large number of agencies, outlining the strategic push to secure a foothold in the SME market outside of WA.

?We?ve proved we?ve got a fairly strong foothold in WA, but we see opportunities on the east coast or outside of WA,? he said.

Incumbent agency 303 has looked after BankWest for the past eight years and, while BankWest is very happy with 303?s performance, the budget increase has prompted the bank to have a look around.

?Basically we?ve been with 303 for eight years. It?s just (that) with an increase in our spend it seemed like an ideal time to look and see what?s available in the marketplace. It will be quite an intense

tender,? Mr McLean said.

?We haven?t approached any agencies with expressions of interest point of view outside of WA, but that?s not to say if someone came to us and said ?we could do this and we

would like to do this? that

we wouldn?t talk to them.

?I think the issue for BankWest is how BankWest portrays itself.

?I think credit unions and building societies have their place but there?s much more to making the banking decision.

?Certainly Statewest and Police and Nurses have taken a line and have a customer base, but they?re still small players.?

BankWest remains caught up in the groundswell of negative publicity banks attract.

It was a case of being tarred with the same brush, Mr McLean said.

?Banks generally have a pretty poor image ? we are different but it?s how we demonstrate that to the community, and that?s not just advertising it?s actual delivery,? he said.

?SME is a good example of our view because we can provide a different offer because we are an unknown quantity.?

The Credit Union Services Corporation public relations and media manager Peter Hansen said the corporation was looking at an e-commerce strategy for CUSCAL but it was early days.

?CUSCAL undertakes regular research and the most recent research in July showed eight out of 10 people are members of a credit union and they?re extremely loyal,? Mr Hansen said.

?Credit unions recognise the need to do more marketing and advertising out in the general community.

?Some credit unions have quite strong brands, but the range is quite large.

?Credit unions differ form banks because they?re member based and have a significant belief in social obligation.?

Increased marketing activity by the credit unions has resulted in accounts such as the Police and Nurses Credit Union becoming hot property for the local advertising industry.

?We?ve now got a slightly higher profile ? to create a greater awareness of the credit union as an alternative to the banks and get people into our branches,? Statewest senior manager retail Tony Romano said.

Statewest has an impressive six-figure marketing budget and works hard to get its brand out into the community.

?Our market share is still small comparably but we are all enjoying good growth,? he said.

?We?ve been with J&G Marketing for about six years now. They tend to be strong in direct marketing and direct relationships.

?We do a lot of direct work back into our internal data base. In the main it?s home loans ? and the fact that we?re small allows us to work with our members.

?We get customer satisfaction and we find when we recruit people from the outside we very seldom lose people.

?One advantage we?ve got is public perception. We?ve got very positive public perception so we don?t have to break through those negative barriers.?

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