Westpac has announced that it will now pause the planned closure of bank branches in regional areas while a Senate inquiry into the issue is undertaken.
Last week, the Senate committee on rural and regional affairs and transport commenced an inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia, with committee chair Senator Matt Canavan and member Senator Gerard Rennick calling on all banks to halt their regional closures.
Westpac had initially indicated that it planned to proceed with the shuttering of 20 branches across the country, around half of which are located in regional areas. However, the bank confirmed it had backflipped on the regional closures in a statement on Thursday (16 February).
“Westpac will postpone eight regional branch closures that were announced in February 2023. No further decisions on regional closures will be made while we engage with the inquiry,” a Westpac spokesperson said.
“We will, however, be continuing with our publicly announced branch co-location program, where we bring two branches and customer service teams together under one roof. These co-located branches allow us to invest and stay in communities and have been well received by customers in more than 30 locations.”
The spokesperson said that Westpac was looking forward to working with the Senate references committee inquiry into regional banking services.
The postponed regional closures include Westpac branches in Gatton, Cloncurry, Ingham and Tully in Queensland, Robinvale and Sale in Victoria, and Denmark in Western Australia as well as a BankSA branch in Kingston SE in South Australia.
Westpac’s backflip comes after the Commonwealth Bank confirmed on Monday that it would not close any of its regional branches.
“Following consideration of a request from the Senate committee, CBA will not close any regional branches while the inquiry is underway in 2023,” the bank said.
“As an additional sign of good faith, while the inquiry is underway in 2023, CBA will postpone the closure of two branches already announced.”
An ANZ spokesperson earlier told InvestorDaily that the bank was “considering the matters raised in the Senate inquiry’s terms of reference and will engage constructively with the inquiry”.
Meanwhile, NAB retail executive Krissie Jones said on Wednesday that the bank would be “continuing our branch reshaping process during the committee’s deliberations in 2023, which will include closures, consolidations and new investments to meet our customers”.
Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.