Big banks shut down branches in west-central New South Wales, blame pandemic, turn to internet banking
Large Australian banks are increasingly closing their branches in smaller regional towns, forcing people to travel to larger centers for in-person banking services.
- Five bank branches in west-central New South Wales to close in 2021
- CBA, NAB and ANZ say consumers are using online services at an increasing rate, doing less physical banking
- Regional communities warn that poor internet quality and mobile reception is a major obstacle to the adoption of digital alternatives
ANZ announced the closure of its storefront in Cowra before the end of the year. This will make the closure the fifth bank to close its branch in west-central New South Wales this year.
Cowra Shire Council Mayor Bill West said banks’ dual willingness to increase profits and use online facilities has left regions behind.
“In communities the size of Cowra it is really very easy to see the damage that is being done.
“It will manifest itself in larger communities over time.”
Closed on September 30
Cr West said ANZ did not consult with the community prior to the announcement.
The bank’s state chief executive, Michael Wake, said Cowra branch transactions have fallen by 50% in the past four years.
Mr. Wake says ANZ gave six months’ notice before the doors closed on September 30, “to allow us to work with our clients on alternative banking methods.”
Cr West said internet and mobile phone access in regional areas was sometimes unreliable.
“Go to the communities that are affected by these decisions.”
Calls to keep regional banks open
Meanwhile, NAB abandoned in-person banking services in Blayney, closing its branch earlier this month.
The town, about 70 kilometers northeast of Cowra, is also set to lose its Commonwealth Bank (CBA) on June 4.
CBA will withdraw from the regional community of Molong on the same day.
Aaron Pearson, a resident of the small town near Orange, has started a petition calling on the Morrison government to step in to keep the banks open.
Poor internet and mobile reception, he said, is a major obstacle for people who opt for digital banking options.
“Online banking is the way of the future, but there are still a lot of people who don’t have that luxury,” he said.
ABC regional director general Norm Swift said the coronavirus pandemic has forced consumers to change their banking habits and two-thirds are now using digital banking.
He encouraged Molong customers to use the Orange branch, about a 30-minute drive away.
Otherwise, Mr Swift said, personal and business banking transactions could be done at the city’s Australia Post outlet.
MP meets ABC
Calare MP Andrew Gee recently met with CBA CEO Matt Comyn to discuss alternatives to branch closures in his electorate.
“It’s hard to say how it’s going to play out, but at least we’ve taken it to the top,” Mr. Gee said.
Heathcote loses its bank branch
He said the meeting made it clear that branches like Blayney and Molong are still profitable.
Mr. Comyn agreed to look at the numbers and come back with other options.
Mr. Gee says he will present the petition to parliament and the CBA.
“It’s a very lousy and disrespectful way of treating loyal customers across the country,” he said.