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ANZ, Westpac flag branch closures

Two more major banks have signalled both permanent and partial closures in their branch networks.

In a growing trend, two more big four banks have announced changes to their branch networks.

ANZ to close six branches

ANZ has alerted six branches across the country of their impending closures: Mareeba in Queensland; Loxton and North Adelaide in South Australia; Ballarat East in Victoria; Osborne Park in Perth; and Sydney Airport in NSW.

The Finance Sector Union has reported that 33 bank workers will be affected, with offers of voluntary redundancy and “limited opportunities for redeployment”.

However, an ANZ spokesman told Mortgage Business that it will seek to retain as many branch staff as it can, particularly with “increased demands on other areas of the bank”.

ANZ has cited the rise of online banking as the driving force behind the branch closures.

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According to the bank, 70 per cent of its customers preferred to use digital banking options in 2020.

It brings the total number of shuttered branches to 48 so far this year (but Mareeba and Loxton will not close until 2022).

“We continue to see a significant shift away from branches as customers increasingly choose to use online options and phones for their banking needs,” the ANZ spokesperson stated.

“This has been one of the biggest changes across the industry and the broader economy in recent years as people go online for everything such as grocery shopping, doing their tax return or banking.”

Julia Angrisano, national secretary of the FSU called the closures a “heartless decision”, stating: “The decision to close branches will hit hardest those bank workers who during the pandemic have not had the luxury or security of working from home.

“It is astounding that one of our most profitable banks can turn its back on bank workers who the ANZ and the community have relied on to help large numbers of Australians confront the financial hardship thrown up by the pandemic.”

She also raised fears around customers being disadvantaged and needing to travel further for their banking, in particularly noting older people who are less likely to be computer literate.

But ANZ countered the concerns by saying it had proactively called “thousands of elderly and vulnerable customers, to help them navigate the ANZ app or phone banking”, as well as other options including ATMs.

As at May, ANZ had closed 145 branches in 2020 and 2021, with 23 more expected by the end of the year. The bank had tipped that it would have a total of 425 branches at the end of December.

Westpac slashes trading hours at 195 branches

Meanwhile, Westpac has decided to temporarily reduce opening hours across 195 branches in Greater Sydney, amid the city’s ongoing lockdown.

From Tuesday, opening times have been cut down across Westpac and St.George branches to being from 9:30am to 2:30pm.

Chief customer engagement officer Ross Miller stated the bank is aiming to keep its doors open while “taking steps to protect” staff and their wellbeing – allowing them more off time during the lockdown.

“We have seen reduced foot traffic in our branch network during lockdown as more people stay home and we would encourage customers with non-essential banking needs to use our mobile, online and telephone banking services where possible,” Mr Miller said.

He also listed COVID-safe measures that have been implemented within branches, including occupancy limits, face shields, masks, physical safety barriers, distance signage and hand sanitiser.

Similarly, when Melbourne saw a sizeable outbreak in 2020, Westpac temporarily closed a number of branches.

Last week, CBA also declared that it would be reducing operating hours across 90 of its regional branches.

From September, affected branches will operate from 9:30am to 1pm, with affected staff to assist the group’s contact centres in the afternoons.

But the bank has also previously flagged permanent branch closures, having shuttered 53 branches between 7 March 2020 and 27 March 2021.

Westpac also closed 80 branches during 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.

Similarly, NAB has said it will continue to review its network after closing 72 branches during 2020 and 2021 (as at 25 May), with 548 open across Australia.

[Related: NAB to launch $2.5m buyback]

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