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Finance industry must #befair to women

'Chat 10 Looks 3' started as a podcast in which ABC journalists Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales discuss "what they're reading, watching, cooking, listening to or irrationally excited by". Now in its 94th episode, it has a large following.

Equally impressive is the official Chat 10 Looks 3 podcast community group on Facebook. With almost 30,000 members, it has the kind of member engagement that businesses dream of. Many posts generate hundreds of intelligent responses. The overwhelmingly female membership is smart, community-minded and spirited.

A recent post read like something from the seventies. A member, JD, complained of unfair treatment by financial service providers due to her gender, and hundreds of women responded with similar complaints.

We reproduce a selection below with the original post. Although the names are stated in full on Facebook, and with 30,000 members it's hardly a closed group, we have chosen to use initials rather than full names here.

The obvious conclusion is that some members of the finance industry still have a long way to go before they are treating men and women equally.

30 October 2018

JD: Good morning chatter ladies and gents, I have a ‘situation’ that I feel worthy of discussion, in fact I even think it could be worthy of a campaign! Something like #metoo except maybe it could be called the #befair initiative!

Four years ago my husband, who earns equally the same amount as me, if not even a little less, and I went in to buy a house, because we had moved locations. We decided to use my bank, and open a joint account and pay into the home mortgage from that. We also opened a joint credit card and they put him down as the Primary and me as the Secondary. I said ahem, it’s my account we’re attaching that to, so, no thank you, I will not be a primary, I want to be ‘joint’ or nothing, thank you.

I was a little surprised to find that the letters were addressed to him regardless, and inside it referred to Mr and Mrs. I would have thought it would be addressed to both of us, or even me, since I have business with that bank, but no.

Then we, because we were married, decided to go to the same Accountant, with equal business and being equal clients. A few months ago, I made some inquiries about my individual superannuation, and made some changes. The Accountant rang my husband to confirm this!

Then, last week I made an appointment to see a Financial Advisor (remember I was looking into retirement planning in a previous post) and when the Financial Advisor was writing down the clients she automatically put him down as the client, and me as the ‘partner’. I was the one who arranged the appointment and I asked him along. When I questioned it she said, ‘I’m a little old fashioned that way’ and I said well could you please change it to Client and Client please.

What’s with this? Does this annoy anyone else? Does there need to be some change of systems in these traditional institutions. I’m getting very sick of being the handbag. #befair is what I think. Have you had this experience? What do you think?

A selection of comments

LP Totally! We went car shopping and traded in MY car to buy ME a new car... and the finance guy firstly says “oh, you want it in your name”, agh YES! And then I submit the finance paperwork and he rings and asks for my husband's proof of income... I obviously questioned this, where he tells me it’s so he can be the guarantor! My husband thought I was extreme, but I told the guy no, I’m a professional with a good income, I’ll have my own loan, thank you very much!

NP Drives me up the wall!! We are building a house at the moment and it's painful. The real estate agent we are renting from put the lease in my husband's name only and when I asked why he said that they always put it in the name of the primary breadwinner. I said that, actually, I was the highest earner. He didn't know what to say and ended up processing it in my husband's name anyway!

MS Happens way too often. Husband and I went to the bank yesterday - the bank person ONLY addressed my husband. As we worked through the reason for the visit, my comments were ignored or I was told I was not correct - that was until I pointed out he was only looking at my husband's account and not mine!!!

RS “I think we’ll leave you out of it. We can do it without your stuff” - Mortgage broker.

CH 20 years ago when I applied for home insurance on the home we built but I paid for, RACV said they would put the policy in my husband’s name. I insisted it be in my name (also my husband’s wishes). They argued that if my husband was living in the house with me, it was their policy to have it in his name. I asked for someone more senior to clarify this. They did. I went to another insurer. Thought this antiquated attitude would have changed by now. Clearly, not! Infuriating!

RW Maddening! It happens a lot. But the worst was when we were applying for an investment loan for a new property. I do all the financial arrangements and investments and this was made clear to the guy at the bank. But he kept talking to my husband, and my husband said 'don't ask me mate, [RW] looks after all this'. And he STILL ignored me. I am an economist and ex-bank officer. So bloody frustrating!

KR When I bought my engagement ring with MY money (because I had more savings and earned more) the shop keeper put the receipt and ownership papers in my fiancé’s name! I curtly asked her to change them! This stuff drives me crazy, and also my now husband as I constantly point these mishaps out to him ... lol. Although I find things are changing as the people who work in financial institutions are getting younger and are more conscious of gender equality.

PK My then partner (but now husband's) first name is Tony. If I would speak with someone about something to do one of our many jointly-owned items (car, house etc) I would often need to correct the person when they referred to Tony as 'she'. I even had a call centre person once say to me, "I've just fixed up the spelling of Tony and replaced the 'y' with an 'i' (as in Toni)". Assumptions abound.

SN I’d find some new people to deal with, ones that have similar values to you. I applied for an investment loan with a big bank and the manager chuckled and asked why a young woman would want to be in so much debt on her own (I could comfortably service the loan). I asked if he’d say that to a man and when he stumbled, I politely took my lucrative business elsewhere. I now have a great relationship with a bank manager who wouldn’t think to say something like that. Let your money do the talking.

DF Couple of years ago we got a new credit card to go with our joint bank account & mortgage. We put DH as primary card holder as he works full time & I work part time. With the credit card came 2 airport lounge cards for free airport lounge passes each year. Found out that I can only use the lounge pass if I am traveling with DH. We both called the bank and the lounge pass company to complain long and hard to no avail. We changed banks. Infuriating!

CT I went into the bank the other day and they said had I now found a job? I asked why and they said they had me listed as unemployed for the last 11 years. 😡 I went on maternity leave for 6 months back then and have had regular pay going into my account since....

JS I don’t know who you’ve been dealing with because I was in the Finance Industry for many years and always asked who wants their name first on a joint account. A young man and woman were about to be married. The husband-to-be said "me", and she disagreed, boy did a fight ensue and I had to leave the room. Turns out she didn’t realise his strong beliefs about it. As for the credit card you can’t have 2 primary cardholders, the primary cardholder is responsible for the debt and has control over what’s known as an additional cardholder. It’s the system. Again though I pointed out the implications and generally speaking the person with the highest income and or lowest level of liability would become the primary cardholder, not based on gender. We would have expected a complaint if we didn’t ask, it was normal practice.

HP I find this very weird. As an accountant I will either default the first person in a couple or even business partners to be the person who mostly deals with us. If the contact is split equally or they are new clients I use the alphabet approach to decide who to put first. I totally hear your frustrations!

BS Ok I’ve just read over 200 comments on this topic and it’s obvious that the systems (particularly financial) in many areas of our lives are still causing astonishment and frustration that we are still having to put up with things which indicate our position in the world We have to deal with it, argue, fight against inequality and injustice in our everyday lives. However a few people have said these frustrations should not be compared to #metoo.

MH When I tried to get a loan for my first property (more than 20 years ago now) I tried about 6 banks before I found one which would lend to a single woman. Whenever there was paperwork, they were looking for someone else like some husband or father or male authority figure to sign. There was just me. I'm very surprised to hear that things haven't changed since then. When I sold the unit a few years later I remember the estate agent told me someone had made an offer. I said "I'll sleep on it and let you know tomorrow." He said you'll need to discuss it with your husband." I said "I'm not married." He said something like "well your father then." I said "my father is dead, I've got no family here, I own the property so I'll think about the offer and ring you back tomorrow." It's amazing that I remember these conversations from more than 20 years ago because I was astounded at the time that those attitudes existed then. I find it hard to believe this kind of thing is still going on.

JW It’s the worst. I’m a dependent as I’m not working full time at the moment. I’m the same level as our kids!!!!!!! The financial industry has a lot of catching up to do.

CH I'm 70 now and can't believe that this stuff is still happening. I thought we got it sorted in the 70s! Backlash!

KD Try changing your electricity or phone plan, and after you created the accounts and 20 years of paying the bills - because he has NO interest in this - you'll find that you can't because he is the account holder (they will confirm that you are allowed to pay the bills though - just not manage or change anything). I can't help but think that this could add another layer of complexity if you need to flee the family home - no official computer history of owning an account.

AM Oh yes. My husband and I separated four years ago, but Telstra won’t let me transfer the account for our family home into my name. We don’t have an existing contract. It’s just that they won’t transfer ownership of the account that I pay for, relating to the home that I pay for and live in, to me. He and I get along ok, but imagine being in a situation of abuse and not being able to communicate via phone, text or online just because you’re the woman.

BS A friend of mine had a husband who died and Telstra would not close his a/c without his consent. They kept sending bills. She had to go to the omsbusman to resolve it. They kept saying he had to authorise it.

KB It’s not just banks, I checked into a hotel for a conference last night (using my details, my booking request and my email address) and it was automatically put down as Mr and they asked when my husband would be finished at the conference and joining me 😂

JS The primary cardholder is responsible for the debt and has control of the card, they can withdraw the additional cardholder, view statements etc. Essentially the secondary cardholder has no power. It’s due to a number of factors which, now when I think about it is a bit silly, but risk (it’s considered an unsecured debt with high interest) is one as credit cards are generally speaking not so much asset based. Having 2 people able to increase limits is not what banks prefer. They default more often. I can’t remember now if there is legislation as well. There are banking codes. But at the same time it’s benefit is if one partner isn’t working they can have an additional card which provides flexibility and credit to those temporarily not working, raising children etc.

RJC Agitate for change and be persistent. I have been successfully single for 15 odd years now and consequently primary everything - so I have not had this experience but just reading these stories makes me cranky. If you choose to share your life with someone you should do so equally, it’s ridiculous in 2018 that this still happens.

JH Yep! Home loan letters are often addressed only to my partner.  It’s annoying. It was also my bank to start with.

SJ I’ve asked CBA twice to change my salutation from “Miss” to “Ms” and they say they’ve done it but it just reverts back to “Miss”...what the heck!

KP Despite going by Ms on forms my whole life (both when single and when married) I was entered as Mrs for years in my university directory, finally got it changed to Ms after lots of to and fro, changed job contracts within same institution and was re-entered into the database as Miss. I wish I could print this thread to give to people when they try to trivialise each separate instance that something like this happens!

MD Interesting, it is always worth thinking about whose name is on utility bills as well. When the bloke I shared my life with for 40 years died last year, his daughter, who was executor, used that to take control of our Telstra account, which included my Mobile and internet access. It took two weeks before she ‘gave’ me permission to keep my mobile number when I opened a new account. I was the one who paid the bills and was listed on the account but she was able to take control without her or Telstra checking with me.

KA Our bank offers travel insurance with our credit card but because I have been named the secondary person on the card I cannot have insurance if I travel overseas without him

DM When we bought a new house a couple of years ago, husband did the running around getting contracts etc but I dealt with all of the negotiations and bidding. He was explicit with agents that he wasn’t dealing with negotiations but agents consistently wanted to talk to him about it. It was annoying but it worked to our advantage because they underestimated me in making the deal.

CH I once almost got arrested at the NAB branch in Chinatown when they wouldn’t let me pick up our new credit cards without ringing my husband first. I was vociferously livid: the security guy had to come over!

KA I had a similar thing where my husband's supplementary credit card linked to MY BUSINESS was hacked and I, as the account owner rang to cancel it. I was told they'd have to speak to him and get his approval first. I kept escalating and screaming at people until eventually they saw reason. AND THEN the stupid bank (WESTPAC looking at you) had the audacity to send HIM an email asking how HIS experience was. Needless to say, I sent them back a VERY terse letter telling them MY experience sucked. I was sent an apology by the banks customer relations people. The same type of thing happened with our mortgage, when I, as the primary breadwinner, had to put him on the phone to say "talk to her". Dear god these banking people are stupid!!

JS When I was renovating my unit I did all the work and there was no husband. I came home in tears one day from men in trades places treating my like an idiot and seeming disinterested in explaining because I was a woman as opposed to a person who is learning. I'm a woman I just wouldn't get it? Well I showed them. Needless to say the place looked amazing and there was no hiccups whatsoever... I haven't had it in banking because I'm an ex banker and know what they should be doing.

AG My husband has deployed a couple of times and despite my having a power of attorney to act on his behalf, I still had issues with various institutions who insisted they wished to speak to him directly. ‘Oh you are welcome to call him and leave a voicemail’ I’d say breezily. ‘But he’s in Iraq for another 6 months so it’ll be a while until he calls you back’.

As if deployment isn’t difficult enough 🙄

MT If it's any consolation I'm the secondary card holder on our accounts and the bank constantly treats me like a second class citizen. I can't order new products, they won't explain things like credit card fraud situations to me without the primary card holder 'coming on the phone'. It literally just happened again today where they sent the fraud warning to my wife, and when I tried to inquire about it, they wouldn't deal with me.

FR When we bought a house, my partner did most of the phone conversations (on behalf of both of us, consulting with me) as his job gives him a bit more flex to call people during business hours. Bank, real estate and mortgage broker were fine and addressed emails to both of us. Conveyancer seemed to only want to talk to him- despite emails from both of us asking to both be copied on all correspondence so I knew what was going on- was just ignored. Made no sense at all (and got us in a pickle with a few forms that my partner assumed I had recieved and filled out that I had no knowledge of!)

DT This thread, although very interesting, is making my blood boil. I suspect many women manage the financial affairs and are decision makers. It's in the best interest of these institutions, car sales workers etc. to accept that women are at the very least equal and should be treated as such. There's no way my 11yo daughter would put up with some of these experiences, which I too have encountered. Now I need a coffee. Good day chatters!

AP I found out that our mortgage package had been set up in my hubby's name, not mine, even though we were using my bank and not his. When I queried it I was told the broker probably did it in the name of the person who earnt the most, to which I replied it should still have been me. I'm an engineer and if I take my hubby along to industry functions he usually gets asked where he works and I'm assumed to be the plus one.

MT Something I’ve found that works sometimes is to actually raise a formal complaint. That tends to get escalated to a more senior person who can often effect change, or at the very least address your specific issue. Different sector but something happened with Optus recently and I ended up just pushing it to a formal complaint, and although it took some time to resolve, I managed to get $10 a month off my bill for 2 years because one of their customer service reps got it wrong and I was disadvantaged as a result.

LC Well I’m staggered that so many fresh stories are still coming into this thread days later. If ever we needed evidence that sexism is alive and flourishing in 2018 ... I dunno, I’d have hoped that the Sex Discrimation Act of 1984 😮 (that’s 34 years ago, longer than a generation) might have rendered the bad behaviours of car salesmen, tradesmen, banks, insurance cos, utilities etc. etc. not only illegal but by now, invisible, reformed, or redundant. I mean, those banks, what are they thinking? Don’t they have compliance people to check this stuff isn’t still happening? Surely, it isn’t still actual policy?? I swear there’s enough fodder in here for reams of social research, hours of radio docos and a book or two. 😢


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