In September of last year, the Federal Government announced plans to reform responsible lending regulation to speed up loan approvals and inject more credit into the economy.

The reforms will go to a vote in June and, if passed, would shift the burden to borrowers, allowing lenders to take information provided by borrowers at face value.

While alleviating restrictions on lending applications would accelerate the facilitation of credit, it risks causing an increase in lending to consumers who cannot afford to borrow.

Not only would this be largely irresponsible, it would also risk being detrimental to the economy at a time when Australians can least afford it.

Research suggests that as little as a 1% increase in domestic credit raises the likelihood of a banking crisis by 6 to 8%.

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Update resultsUpdate
LenderHome LoanInterest Rate Comparison Rate* Monthly Repayment Repayment type Rate Type Offset Redraw Ongoing Fees Upfront Fees LVR Lump Sum Repayment Additional Repayments Split Loan Option TagsFeaturesLinkCompare
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Important Information and Comparison Rate Warning

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. However, the ‘Compare Home Loans’ table allows for calculations to be made on variables as selected and input by the user. Some products will be marked as promoted, featured or sponsored and may appear prominently in the tables regardless of their attributes. All products will list the LVR with the product and rate which are clearly published on the product provider’s website. Monthly repayments, once the base criteria are altered by the user, will be based on the selected products’ advertised rates and determined by the loan amount, repayment type, loan term and LVR as input by the user/you. *The Comparison rate is based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate. Rates correct as of . View disclaimer.

The debate

Last year Australia fell into a recession for the first time in nearly three decades as the country felt the full impact of pandemic-induced lockdowns.

The Federal Government was quick to support the economy. Payments such as Job Keeper and Job Seeker reduced the impact of job losses, while responsible lending exemptions made it easier for small and medium businesses to borrow.

These measures had the common goal of stimulating economic activity to limit the impact of reduced demand and consumer spending.

Over the last six months, the debate has shifted to whether we should be making it easier for everyday Australians to borrow more quickly.

The Government’s proposed reforms to responsible lending requirements would certainly make it easier for consumers to spend.

However, many believe the changes would put consumers at risk, exposing them to loans they may be unable to repay.

Appeasing both sides of the debate will require finding a solution that allows credit to flow more freely to consumers without placing them at greater risk of financial hardship in the future.

Industry discourse

Major lenders are in favour of the proposed reforms, suggesting they would have a positive impact on accelerating the speed of loan approvals, rather than encouraging banks to issue riskier loans.

Westpac chief executive Peter King said “the Government proposal strikes a good balance between reducing regulatory burden on credit providers while ensuring we have rigorous credit processes in place.”

He further noted that “it is in Westpac’s interest to only lend to customers who are in a position to meet their financial obligations.”

His views are supported by other banking executives, including NAB chief executive Ross McEwan, who noted that the reforms are not about wanting to “lend to people who can’t afford it. NAB will continue to lend responsibly and diligently.”

This is not the case for all lenders, however. The CEO of digital lender Tic:Toc has publicly opposed the impending repeal of responsible lending laws, noting that the supply of credit in the economy is currently strong.

His views have been supported by a number of consumer groups who fear the amendments could lead to an increase in predatory lending.

Financial Rights Legal Centre chief executive Karen Cox noted that, if approved, the reforms would “take consumer protection backwards by a decade and expose ordinary Australians to more debt.”

The role of technology

The issue is the time it takes financial institutions to assess applications for credit.

Legacy technology means that verifying application information can be a lengthy process, increasing costs for lenders and slowing the approval of credit to borrowers.

Removing these requirements would address this issue. However, rather than removing responsible lending requirements and risking unintended consequences, the financial sector and Government should be looking to technological solutions.

Today, FinTechs in Australia offer data aggregation and enrichment products that give financial institutions the ability to facilitate near instant verification of borrower financial data.

These tools give financial organisations a comprehensive and accurate view of a consumer’s financial position, allowing them to speed up lending processes while still adhering to existing responsible lending guidelines.

In short, the answer lies in technological innovation, not reducing the need for responsible lending protocols.

Australian financial institutions can meet our country’s responsible lending guidelines quickly, today.

We simply need to innovate.

Photo by Jon Moore on Unsplash

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