Below is an overview of the Australian banking situation. This will help you research and plan your property purchase and possible move to Australia.
It is only since the 1980s that foreign banks have been able to establish branches in Australia. Before this time the banking system in Australia was dominated by savings banks and trading banks. As a result, Australia historically had few banks when compared with other countries such as the United States or Hong Kong.
Savings banks paid very little interest to deposit accounts and were primarily concerned with providing mortgages to their clients. Trading banks were essentially merchant banks and closed to the general public. Due to the lack of facilities offered by banks, non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) such as building societies were established in Australia and offered better interest rates, while still remaining somewhat limited in the services they could offer.
From 1983, banks began to shed some of their restrictions and increased their credit facilities. The distinction between savings and trading banks was abolished and foreign branches of banks began to open in Australia. Today high street banks are numerous throughout the country. Branches are normally located within 20km from any Australian home and cash point machines are also widely available.
The four main banks in Australia are:
- The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
- The Commonwealth Bank of Australia
- The National Australia Bank
- The Westpac Banking Corporation
The most significant foreign banks with retail banking facilities in Australia are; BankWest, HSBC and Citibank Australia.
Banks are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA), which is responsible for the regulation of nearly the entire Australian financial industry, including insurance and superannuation enterprises.
Today banks are effectively open for 24 hours per day, seven days a week and some 90% of customers make full use of internet electronic banking facilities to manage their transactions immediately from the comfort of home or the office.