Customer Owned Banking: How Helpful Are Customer Owned Banks for Australian Expats?

If you’re an Australian expat looking to buy property back home, this article is tailored just for you. In this guide, we delve into the world of customer owned banking, explaining why it can be the ideal choice expats living overseas.

Let’s explore the unique benefits, financial stability, and tailored solutions offered by mutual banks and building societies in Australia. By the end, you should be able to make an informed decision in choosing customer owned banking as your key to owning Australian property.

What Is Customer Owned Banking?

When managing your finances, you want a banking institution with your best interests at heart. That’s where customer owned banking comes in. Customer owned banks, also known as mutual banks or building societies, are financial institutions that are owned by their customers or members rather than by external shareholders. This unique ownership structure sets them apart from traditional banks and allows them to prioritise the needs and satisfaction of their customers above all else.

But what does it mean to be a customer owned bank?

Simply put, it means that the customers are the shareholders. Instead of maximising profits for external investors, customer owned banks focus on providing value to their members. This member-centric approach leads to a range of benefits, including competitive interest rates, personalised service, and a genuine commitment to their customers’ financial well-being.

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The Philosophy of Customer Owned Banks

Customer owned banks operate under the principle of mutuality, which emphasises the mutual benefit of both the institution and its customers. This principle guides their decision-making process, ensuring that their actions align with the best interests of their members. Unlike traditional banks, which may be driven by profit targets, customer owned banks prioritise customer satisfaction and strive to build long-term relationships based on trust and transparency.

These institutions are also deeply rooted in the communities they serve. Customer owned banks have a strong commitment to supporting local economies, investing in community projects, and giving back to the areas in which their members live and work. By choosing a customer owned bank, you become part of a financial institution that actively contributes to the well-being and development of your community.

In Australia, customer owned banking has gained significant recognition and popularity. The customer owned banking sector comprises both mutual banks and building societies, each with its own unique characteristics. Mutual banks offer a wide range of banking services, including savings accounts, transaction accounts, home loans, and personal loans. On the other hand, building societies specialise in providing home loans and are particularly adept at assisting individuals in achieving their dreams of homeownership.

The ethos of customer owned banking resonates strongly with Australian expatriates living overseas. By choosing a customer owned bank, you can enjoy a personalised customer experience, competitive rates and fees, and the peace of mind that comes from banking with an institution that genuinely cares about your success throughout the mortgage lending process.

The Advantages of Customer Owned Banking

Customer owned banking in Australia offers a range of advantages specifically tailored to the unique needs of expatriates living overseas. Let’s delve into these advantages and discover why customer owned banks are the preferred choice for many expats.

Tailored Solutions

These institutions understand the challenges individuals living overseas face or navigating the complexities of investing from a foreign country. Customer owned banks take the time to listen and understand your specific circumstances, allowing them to offer personalised financial products and services that address your unique requirements.

Simplifying International Banking

For expats, customer owned banks can assist with international banking solutions that simplify the management of finances across borders. Whether it’s accessing funds, making international transfers, or receiving support in multiple currencies, customer owned banks have the expertise to guide you through the intricacies of international banking. Their dedicated teams are well-versed in the unique needs of expatriates and can provide valuable advice and assistance tailored to your situation.

Specialised Mortgage Options

Customer owned banks understand the nuances of the Australian property market and can provide expert guidance on obtaining home loans and navigating the intricacies of property purchases. They often have specialised mortgage options designed specifically for Aussie expats, taking into account factors such as residency status, deposit requirements, and repayment flexibility. With their extensive knowledge of the local market, they can help you make informed decisions and secure the best financing options for your Australian property investment.

Financial Stability

The focus on long-term sustainability sets customer owned banks apart from traditional banks. They are not driven by short-term profit goals but instead prioritise the financial well-being of their members. This commitment to stability and security ensures that your funds are managed prudently and that the institution is well-positioned to weather economic uncertainties.


Customer owned banks in Australia are known for their strong capital positions and prudent lending practices. They adhere to responsible lending standards, ensuring that loans are granted based on your ability to repay. This approach provides reassurance to expats and foreign buyers, knowing that they are dealing with an institution that prioritises their financial security and takes a conservative approach to lending.

Competitive Interest Rates and Fees

Member-focused institutions aim to provide value to their customers rather than maximise profits for external shareholders. This translates into attractive interest rates on savings accounts, competitive mortgage rates, and lower fees compared to traditional banks. By choosing a customer owned bank, expats and foreign buyers can potentially save money on interest payments and fees, putting more funds towards achieving their financial goals.

Challenges Faced by Australian Expats in Traditional Banks

Australian expats face various challenges when dealing with traditional banks that are not specifically tailored to their unique circumstances. These challenges can hinder their financial management and create obstacles in their banking experience. Let’s explore some of the common challenges faced by Australian expats when dealing with traditional banks.

Limited Services and Flexibility

Traditional banks may have limited services or lack the flexibility required to cater to the needs of Australian expats. They may not offer specialised expat accounts or have convenient options for international money transfers. This can result in inconvenience and potential financial implications for expats.

For example, they might encounter difficulties in accessing their funds overseas, struggle with high fees for international transactions, or face restrictions on opening accounts from abroad.

Language and Cultural Barriers

Language and cultural barriers can pose significant challenges for Australian expats when dealing with traditional banks. Expats may find it challenging to understand complex financial terms, policies, and procedures, especially if they are not fluent in the local language of their country. Communicating effectively with bank staff and comprehending important documents can become daunting tasks.

Additionally, cultural differences in banking practices and customer service expectations may further complicate the expat banking experience.

Lack of Personalised Assistance and Understanding

Traditional banks often prioritise efficiency and may not provide the level of personalised assistance and understanding that Australian expats require. Expats may encounter difficulties receiving tailored advice and support for their financial needs. Traditional banks might not fully grasp the challenges and unique circumstances faced by expats, leading to a lack of empathy and guidance in managing their finances effectively.

Inconvenient Banking Hours and Time Zone Differences

Traditional banks usually operate during standard business hours, which can be inconvenient for Australian expats living in different time zones. Coordinating with their home country’s banking hours while residing abroad can be challenging. This might result in difficulties in reaching customer support or conducting time-sensitive transactions during normal banking hours.

High Fees for International Transactions

Traditional banks often impose high fees for international transactions, including currency conversions, wire transfers, and ATM withdrawals. These fees can significantly impact the overall cost of home buying for Australian expats, reducing the value of their hard-earned money. Expats may also face unfavourable exchange rates when converting currencies, further affecting their financial transactions and budgets.

Lack of Understanding of Expatriate Tax and Financial Regulations

Navigating through complex expatriate tax and financial regulations can be overwhelming for Australian expats when dealing with traditional banks. Banks may not possess the specialised knowledge or resources to provide accurate guidance on tax obligations and compliance requirements specific to expats. This lack of expertise can result in potential financial pitfalls, penalties, or even legal complications.

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Customer owned banking can net you tailored solutions catering to your specific needs, ensuring your financial journey is smooth and successful. With a focus on stability, responsible lending practices, and competitive rates, customer owned banks can provide the peace of mind and financial support that expats and foreign buyers seek.

If you’re an Australian expat looking to invest in the Australian property market, customer owned banking can be the way to go. Speak with us to discuss your mortgage and lender options tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. We’re always happy to help!

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Frequently asked questions

Eligibility to join a customer owned bank varies depending on the institution. Generally, anyone who meets the membership criteria can become a member. This includes Australian residents, citizens, and sometimes even non-residents. Some customer owned banks have specific eligibility requirements, such as certain professions or industries. It’s best to check with the individual institution for their membership criteria.

Customer owned banks offer a wide range of accounts to cater to different needs. You can typically have transaction accounts, savings accounts, term deposits, and investment accounts. These accounts often come with competitive interest rates, low fees, and convenient online banking facilities.

Yes, many customer owned banks offer home loans specifically tailored for expats and foreign buyers. These institutions understand the unique circumstances of expats and foreign buyers and can assist you in obtaining a home loan to purchase property in Australia. They can guide you through the application process, explain the documentation requirements, and provide solutions that suit your specific situation.

There are several advantages to banking with a customer owned bank. Firstly, customer owned banks prioritise their members’ interests and offer personalised service. They have a strong commitment to customer satisfaction and building long-term relationships. Additionally, customer owned banks often offer competitive interest rates on savings and loans, lower fees, and a community-focused approach. By banking with a customer owned institution, you become part of a financial community that puts you first.

Absolutely! Customer owned banks recognise the importance of convenient and accessible banking services. They provide robust online banking platforms that allow you to manage your accounts, make transfers, pay bills, and access your funds 24/7, no matter where you are in the world. Their online banking systems are designed to be user-friendly and secure, ensuring a seamless banking experience.

Yes, customer owned banks in Australia are regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). They are subject to the same regulatory standards as traditional banks, ensuring that they operate in a safe and secure manner. Additionally, customer owned banks strongly focus on financial stability, prudent lending practices, and building capital reserves to protect the interests of their members.

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