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Heritage to open 2 new NSW branches

The Queensland-based lender has resumed interstate expansion after halting it during the COVID-19 crisis, with two new branches to open in NSW.

Heritage Bank has announced that it will open two new branches in Sydney and Tweed Heads later in 2021.

The bank will open a branch in Macquarie Park in north-west Sydney, and one in Tweed Heads in NSW and on the border of NSW and Queensland.

The Macquarie Bank branch is due to open in late September while the Tweed Heads branch will open in mid-October 2021.

The Macquarie Park branch will be located in the Macquarie Centre shopping centre, within 20 kilometres of the Castle Hill and Parramatta branches, while a branch will open in Tweed Heads Shopping Centre, according to Heritage CEO Peter Lock.

He commented: “This will create a cluster of branches in Sydney that can support each other operationally and generate greater awareness. Macquarie Park is an extremely attractive suburb given its demographics and location, with the business park and university creating plenty of opportunities for us to build a presence.

“Similarly, the new branch at Tweed City Shopping Centre will form a cluster with existing Gold Coast branches on the Queensland side of the border, but will open up our ability to target growth in the booming northern New South Wales corridor.”

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The move to open the two new branches has formed a part of the lender’s plans to expand its branch presence outside of its base in Queensland (initially targeting Sydney and then looking to Melbourne, which it began in 2019.

Heritage opened its first interstate branch in Castle Hill in Sydney’s north-west in October 2019, followed by a branch in Parramatta in Sydney’s west in December 2019, and called it a “truly historic milestone” to open the first branches outside of Queensland in the bank’s history of over 145 years.

Mr Lock said that the Castle Hill and Parramatta branches had together attracted 1,000 new members, $30 million in mortgage lending, and more than $100 million in deposits in their first year, despite the COVID-19 crisis striking soon after the branches opened.

Mr Lock added that while the lender planned to continue expanding after that, the coronavirus pandemic temporarily halted the expansion plans.

However, he said that the “time was now right to resume the program”.

“Heritage is bucking the industry trend by opening new branches and maintaining the size of our branch network,” Mr Lock said.

“At times, we may need to change the spread of our branches, but if we close in one area, we look to open in another. I firmly believe branches still play an extremely important role in providing customers with the personal connection they're craving.”

Heritage to reassess expansion plans as digital banking rises

Mr Lock said that the lender’s long-term plan has remained to open more branches in Sydney, with a particular focus on the western Sydney corridor, and eventually in Melbourne.

“For the time being however, we will focus on getting these two new branches up and running, and especially making our Sydney cluster hum, before we look further afield,” he concluded.

However, the lender also told Mortgage Business that it is reassessing its longer-term branch expansion plans in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, which it said has “accelerated the switch to digital transactions in banking”.

Mr Lock noted that some of the major banks are continuing to close down branches and reduce the size of their networks.

“When your main focus is on maximising profit, that’s the kind of decision you make,” he said.

“But with a customer-owned bank like Heritage, our focus is on serving our members. We know many people appreciate the convenience of digital banking channels, but also love the personal connection they enjoy at a branch.

“It’s not one or the other – branches are still very important as part of the omni-channel experience that customers demand these days.”

Major banks such as ANZ, Westpac, and National Australia (NAB) recently announced the closure of branches, citing this increasing shift to digital banking as a driver.

ANZ announced in April that it will shut down 15 branches in regional NSW, Victoria, and Western Australia between June and October 2021.

Westpac Group said it will shut down and amalgamate 48 bank branches and relocate 300 jobs to Victoria, while NAB partially closed 114 small regional branches last year.

[Related: Non-major ‘consolidates’ Brisbane office presence]

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