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Westpac Group to close more than 20 branches

The banking group has confirmed it will be closing branches under the Westpac, Bank of Melbourne or St.George brands in more than 20 locations.

More than 20 branches operated by the major bank and its subsidiaries will close across Australia in the coming weeks, it has been confirmed.

A spokesperson for the Westpac Group confirmed to Mortgage Business that the following branches are set to close: 

NSW: Glen Innes; Kiama; Lavington; Leura; Wauchope; Cronulla; Kingsgrove. 

Victoria: Bentleigh; Colac; Eltham; Greythorn; Leongatha; Morwell; Portland; Reservoir; South Yarra; Werribee.

South Australia: Fulham Gardens; Peterborough.

Queensland: Nambour; New Farm; Toombul.

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Western Australia: Kununurra; University Campus. 

The Westpac Group spokesperson stated that the closures come amid “a significant shift toward digital and cashless banking, and declining foot traffic in bank branches”.

“Westpac continues to follow our customers by investing in the ways they are choosing to bank,” they said.

“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 comfortable doing most of their banking online, but for those who would prefer face-to-face service we will continue to offer a range of ways to bank with us.”

The spokesperson flagged that Westpac had grown its 24/7 phone banking and virtual banking centres to “further assist customers with their needs”, and noted that “branches remain an important service option, especially in areas that have high customer usage”.

According to the major bank, the “majority of employees” affected by branch changes would likely be redeployed elsewhere.

“We have a robust process in place to assist employees in finding new opportunities within Westpac Group, including support from their leader and access to a career transition coach during a redeployment period,” they said.

“This means the majority of employees affected by branch changes secure a new role and continue their career with the group.”

The move marked the latest in a series of bank branch closures in the last few years.

Indeed, according to the government’s Regional Banking Taskforce, the number of total bank branches in Australia has declined from around 5,800 to 4,500 over the last four years.

Moreover, the number of branches in regional and remote Australia fell from around 2,500 to 1,900 in the four years to June 2021.

The taskforce is aiming to understand the impacts of branch closures and how customers are accessing banking services, as well as to help improve services and accessibility where branches have closed.

For example, while several lenders have partnered with Australia Post to offer services such as cash withdrawals and deposits, account and balance checks, credit card repayments, and cheque deposits; customers can’t apply for a loan or open or close an account at their post office offering Bank@Post.

The latest branch closures from Westpac Group have been met with ire from the Finance Sector Union, whose national secretary Julia Angrisano suggested that profits were being put before customer needs.

She highlighted that the August 2022 closure of the Westpac branch in Morwell, Victoria, (approximately 150 kilometres east of Melbourne) was the latest bank branch closure to impact the community – after ANZ, Bank Australia and CBA branches had closed their branches, with only National Australia Bank (NAB) having a physical branch presence in the community.

“How long before the NAB walks away and leaves the community in Morwell without any local banking services?” she asked.

“This race to shut branches has to stop and it’s time the Federal Government imposed a minimum service standard on the banks to make sure customers are protected.”

The FSU therefore called on senator Bridget McKenzie, who is co-charing the taskforce, to start “ rallying her mates in the National Party to defend regional Australia from greedy bankers who are selling out farmers and local businesses.”

[Related: Regional bank branch taskforce opens consultation]

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