Navigation for News Categories

New interpretation service aims to help bank customers overcome language barriers

17:27 5/3/2024
No caption

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Westpac on Tuesday unveiled a new phone interpretation service to support customers who find it difficult to communicate in English.

The LanguageLoop service can help customers in more than 190 languages, said Helen Ryder, acting general manager of consumer banking and wealth at Westpac.

Ryder said the bank previously relied on multilingual staff members to jump in and support frontline personnel who needed interpreting assistance.

"However, we want to make sure we're able to support customers with as many languages as possible, as quickly as possible - partnering with LanguageLoop gives us that confidence in the service we're providing," Ryder said.

Using the new service, Westpac employees can dial in an interpreter if a customer calling the bank by phone has difficulties communicating in English.

If Westpac receives an email from a customer who has difficulty communicating in English, bank staff can offer to call them with an interpreter.

Interpretation assistance is also available by phone at Westpac branches.

The service will be available 24/7, and calls to interpreters will be answered within a minute, according to Westpac.

Languages supported include Mandarin, Hindi, Samoan, Tagalog and others.

The initiative is the result of an internal report released last year that identified language as a barrier to the bank's services. The lender said that translation services in Mandarin were in high demand

Louisa Brock, manager of customer vulnerability and financial inclusion at Westpac NZ, said the service uses real people to interpret with measures in place to ensure confidentiality.

"We're committed to helping all New Zealanders with their banking, and our 5,000-strong workforce reflects the diversity of our customers and communities," Brock said.

Andrew Hubbard, deputy chief executive at the Citizens Advice Bureau, said they support the introduction of interpreting services to bank customers and would like to see all banks taking steps to improve accessibility.

"We increasingly see people facing barriers in trying to access basic banking services, particularly those who want to access face-to-face or 'human' services," Hubbard said.

"Language barriers are another significant issue. It makes all the difference when a customer or client can speak to someone in their own language."

Hubbard said the Citizens Advice Bureau also provides language support services in relation to a wide range of issues.

Logan Munro, general manager of retail at Kiwibank, said the lender hasn't got concrete plans to implement a similar translation service, but they have staff members who can speak about 20 different languages outside of English and te reo Māori.

"We are on a continual journey to enable our customers to communicate with us in the way that suits them best," Munro said. "This includes offering different languages, services for hearing or visually impaired customers as well as physical accessible standards within our branches."

Munro said Kiwibank wants its workforce to be reflective of its customers and community, noting that the lender does this by celebrating diversity internally.

"Our workforce provides us insight into the needs of Aotearoa's diverse communities, helping us bring our modern, progressive and inclusive way of working at Kiwibank to deliver for those who bank with Kiwibank," he said.

RNZ has also contacted other lenders for comment.

关于 About

A horizontally repeating motif of semi circular arcs in red to represent a bridge

RNZ Chinese is a dedicated initiative producing content for and about the diverse Chinese community in New Zealand. RNZ is an independent public service multimedia organisation that provides audiences with trusted news and current affairs in accordance with the RNZ Charter. Contact the team by email at

RNZ中文 (RNZ Chinese) 是新西兰广播电台 (Radio New Zealand, RNZ) 推出的专项版块, 致力于关注新西兰多元华人社区,提供相关的新闻报道和内容服务。RNZ是一家独立的公共服务机构,依据RNZ章程,通过多媒体平台提供值得信赖的新闻和时事报道。欢迎联系中文团队,电子邮箱: