NAB has attracted significant criticism for refusing to halt the closure of its bank branches in regional Australia while a Senate inquiry into the issue is undertaken.
Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ have all paused some of their closures following a request from the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, which launched an inquiry into branch closures in the regions last month.
But speaking at a committee hearing in Sale, Victoria on Thursday, NAB executive for retail Krissie Jones indicated that the bank would not be pausing its branch closure program.
“We will continue to invest in regional Australia and some of that will also mean we will close some locations,” she told the committee.
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) has condemned NAB for failing to join its major competitors and noted that five branches have been announced for closure with more likely in the future.
“This is a pig-headed approach from NAB to refuse to understand that the big banks are on the nose with customers and businesses who want branch closures stopped,” said FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano.
“The wider community is sick of branch closures which force them to travel long distances to conduct business face to face at a bank.”
The FSU said NAB and Westpac executives had both confirmed to the committee that there was no community consultation prior to bank branches being closed.
“We agree with comments from Senators during the hearing that indicates they will consider recommending mutual service obligations for the banks to maintain branches in regional areas,” said Ms Angrisano.
In her opening statement, Ms Jones said that NAB did not take the decision to close a branch lightly, with consideration given to the number of customers visiting, the availability of alternative banking options and the bank’s ability to attract talent to serve its customers.
“When a closure takes place, our local team works closely with customers up until the closure, to ensure they are aware of the banking options that will continue to be available,” she said.
“This can include continuing to bank in person at the local Australia Post as part of our 10 year partnership, using telephone or online banking, or having one of our business, agribusiness or mobile bankers visit at a time and location that suits them.
“We also endeavour to provide a community banker when we close a branch in a regional area. This community banker is a NAB colleague, who is based at the local post office for a short time following a closure, to assist with the transition to banking at Australia Post.”
According to Ms Angrisano, all Australians deserve to be able to access the full range of financial services regardless of where they live.
“The banks have been using branch closures to prop up their massive profits for years and it’s time they were forced to maintain customer service to local communities in both regional and metropolitan areas,” she concluded.
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.