Outrage as major Australian bank announces a new round of branch closures

Nov 30, 2023
Customers who rely on face-to-face interactions and personalised service are expressing their dismay, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration over the move. Source: Getty Images.

One of Australia’s largest banks has announced a new round of branch closures, leaving customers and local businesses outraged.

National Australia Bank (NAB) confirmed that five branches across the country will be closed as of March 7, 2024. The branches being axed are Tuggeranong in ACT, Scone in NSW, Emerald in Greater Melbourne, Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast, and Balmain in Sydney.

NAB retail executive Krissie Jones highlighted that the decision to close branches is a response to the increasing trend of customers embracing online banking services.

“While we understand some people will be disappointed, this decision was made after looking closely at the number of customers using these branches and the increased use of digital banking in the area,” Jones said.

“Just as people are using online government services to complete their tax or a Medicare claim, locals in these areas are increasingly choosing to bank digitally because it’s often more convenient.”

NAB’s announcement comes after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released its 2023 Authorised Deposit-Taking Institutions (ADIs) points of presence statistics. These figures provided an in-depth view of the physical banking service channels available to Australians, including branches, ATMs, and EFTPOS facilities.

The statistics showed a marked decline in the number of bank branches, with the closure of 424 branches across the nation, marking an 11 per cent reduction. What’s particularly concerning is the 7 per cent decrease in branches located in regional and remote areas, where banking services are already less accessible.

The recent announcement of additional bank closures in regional areas is perceived as a significant challenge for residents in these regions who heavily depend on in-person banking services.

FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said, “closing these banks is a betrayal of the community and staff in these areas and will make banking harder for older people, businesses and anyone who needs to speak to a banker face to face.”

“These announcements could not come at a worse time with the holiday season around the corner and cost of living pressures already taking a significant toll on our members,” Angrisano said.

“It is a disgrace that NAB continues to aggressively pursue its branch closure strategy without genuine community engagement or employee consultation.

“After delivering an annual profit of $7.7 billion, NAB is still using branch closures to cut costs and boost profits. The bank could easily invest in these communities who rely on branches to meet their banking needs instead of shut them down.”

“The CBA has seen the growth potential in keeping branches open and maintaining its branch network and the NAB should follow suit.

“NAB needs to wake up to the real needs of customers, save the jobs of bank workers and keep these branches open.”

Customers who rely on face-to-face interactions and personalised service are expressing their dismay, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration over NAB’s move.

Reduced access to physical banking services can have severe repercussions for consumers and businesses, especially in areas where digital banking infrastructure might not be as robust.

One person who is fully aware of the severe repercussions that can come with limited access to banking services is Cash Welcome campaign spokesperson Jason Bryce who recently launched a petition calling for guaranteed access to banking and cash in regional areas — which has currently received close to 130,000 signatures.

“Australians don’t want to lose access to cash or their right to choose cash to pay for essential goods and services,” Bryce said.

“Consumers and businesses need cash and banking for our local economies to thrive. Even people who don’t use cash every day need cash occasionally or when systems go offline. Many bank branches are being closed despite continuing heavy foot traffic and even growing numbers of customers.

“Banks enjoy a central place at the heart of our economy and money system. Banks need to serve their customers and ensure that all communities have ready access to cash.

“Australians don’t want a cashless society. If I buy bottled water that doesn’t mean I want the water pipes to my home dismantled.

“The cash system is essential national economic infrastructure, that is now being dismantled and replaced by privately owned payment systems charging fees to users.”

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