Westpac Banking Corporation (Westpac) has said it will close three branches in Western Australia, two branches in Queensland, and a branch in South Australia in the coming weeks.
The branches set to close are:
- Western Australia: Floreat Forum
- Western Australia: Spearwood
- Western Australia: Murray St Perth
- Queensland: Morningside
- Queensland: Hamilton Island
- South Australia: Hutt St Adelaide
In a statement to Mortgage Business, a Westpac spokesperson said that the closures come as more customers choose to bank online. It also comes amid reduced footfall as lockdowns persist.
“Westpac continues to follow our customers by investing in the ways they are choosing to bank. This follows a significant shift toward digital and cashless banking, and declining foot traffic in bank branches,” the spokesperson said.
“This trend is evident across the Westpac Group with over 5 million digitally active customers.”
The major bank said it had also grown its 24/7 phone banking and virtual banking centres to further assist customers with their needs.
However, Westpac highlighted that it believes branches will “continue to remain an important service option, especially in areas that have high customer usage”, and noted that Westpac will support customers via its [email protected] option with Australia Post.
The spokesperson continued: “When we do close a branch, it is not a decision we take lightly. We take into consideration customer usage, location, and proximity to other banking services...
“Many of our customers are increasingly comfortable doing most of their banking online, but for those who would prefer to have face-to-face service we will continue to offer our customers a range of ways to bank with us.”
Westpac Group continues to hold the second-largest branch network in Australia out of all the major banks, behind Commonwealth Bank of Australia (which has also recently been closing branches across the country).
According to recent data submitted to a recent parliamentary committee, Westpac has closed around 80 branches in 2020 and 2021, leaving it with around 840 branches across the Westpac Group brands (Westpac, St.George Bank, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA) as at May.
It also recently temporarily reduced opening hours across 195 branches in Greater Sydney, amid the city’s ongoing lockdown.
Opening times for these branches were reduced across Westpac and St.George branches to run from 9:30am to 2:30pm.
Branch closures criticised as ‘outrageous’
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) lambasted the bank for the most recent closures, with its national secretary, Julia Angrisano, stating: “It is outrageous that when parts of Australia are moving in and out of lockdowns, that Westpac can blame the fall off in customer visits to branches during Covid-19, for the decision to close.
“In 2020 all of Australia spent weeks in lockdown. Westpac is using customer data from last year to suggest customers no longer need a local bank branch.”
Ms Angrisano said the decision to withdraw from Hamilton Island in Queensland would leave the island with no bank branches, with residents having to instead use banking services at the post office.
“Westpac is effectively abandoning its customers on Hamilton Island,” Ms Angrisano continued.
“They simply have nowhere else to go to access full banking services.
“This limited service through Australia Post is not good enough to service the local community because Westpac can withdraw from utilising the Post Office at the drop of a hat.”
Ms Angrisano suggested the closure of six branches would impact the jobs of 31 Westpac staff (however, the bank has suggested there would be redeployment opportunities).
The latest move builds on a growing number of branch closures, which have resulted in the shuttering of around 350 branch closures across Australia since the start of the pandemic.
The FSU national secretary concluded: “We believe Westpac, along with all the major banks, is showing no consideration for the millions of Australians in rural and regional parts of Australia who are progressively being deprived of the benefits of managing their finances through a bank branch.
“The closure of bank branches and the migration of customers to digital banking has become a major cost saving strategy banks use to increase profits.”
[Related: ANZ, Westpac flag branch closures]
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.