Horowhenua's Greypower is concerned about the phasing-out of cheques by Kiwibank, saying it is not allowing enough time or support for elderly customers to move to electronic banking.

The group's president Terry Hemmingsen said members and other older people were upset and confused over the decision by the bank to discontinue cheques from February 2020.

"More than half of our members, along with many other older people do not have email or internet connectivity," Hemmingsen said.

"If you are on a pension, how much it would cost for a pensioner to get the computer, connect to it and pay the ISP for an internet service? Those costs alone put many people off engaging in electronic banking and other internet activities."

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He also cited concern over scams as a reason elderly people were wary of electronic banking.

Hemmingsen said that at a recent Grey Power annual meeting in Wellington, an address by KiwiBank's chief executive was met with "anger and derision".

"KiwiBank had to know that this was not a decision that would be well received by those folk who rely on cheques to pay their accounts," he said.

"Grey Power is calling on KiwiBank to slow the process down and to introduce the policy over the next five to 10 years so that people will have a chance to change, adapt, up-skill and become used to the new age of banking."

Grey Power's Terry Hemmingsen.
Grey Power's Terry Hemmingsen.

Grey Power believed KiwiBank had promised to hold seminars to assist customers in switching to electronic banking, he said, but staff in a local branch did not know about them.

Kiwibank external communications manager Kara Tait said the bank did acknowledge that some older people would find making the switch tricky and that there were programmes running in the Levin branch providing one-on-one sessions to help upskill customers.

"Kiwibank's decision to go cheque-free will mean challenge and change for some customers," she said.

"This is exactly why we have a nine month transition period and are working side by side with customers to support them over the transition period to use safer, faster and cheaper payments options."

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She said the bank recognised more than half of those still writing cheques are aged over 65 and had reached out to senior groups and advocates, including Grey Power, to ensure they understand how customers were being supported.

"We welcome the opportunity to speak to groups and if there are organisations in the community that would like a Kiwibank representative to attend a local meeting or event we encourage them to contact our local leaders," she said.

Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich.
Kiwibank chief executive Steve Jurkovich.

One-to-one sessions with Kiwibank's Digital Angels can be booked at the branch, and the bank also partnered with the organisation Stepping UP, which runs free banking workshops across the country.

"If people are interested in attending a workshop, let us know by emailing us at sustainability@kiwibank.co.nz. When we have a workshop scheduled in your community, we'll send you an invitation," Tait said.

A digital education hub is also available at www.kiwibank.co.nz/digital-education, where customers can watch videos and get step-by-step instructions about banking online safely.

"We are not keen to lose any customers ever, for our customers in transition we are doing all we can to support them," Tait said.

"We believe as a progressive bank we have a responsibility to support our customers to be prepared for the future."