The National Australia Bank has made a public commitment not to axe bank branches in rural and regional Australia — for the time being.
The bank’s group CEO, Philip Chronican, said during a visit to Albury that NAB will keep the 316 branches it currently operates in rural and regional Australia open until at least January 2021.
In a statement, the bank noted that these branches employ more than 1,600 people.
“We are proud of our heritage in regional and rural Australia and we want our customers to know that our priority is to serve them. We also know that regional and rural Australia is undergoing significant change — and impacts like bank branch closures are difficult for communities,” Mr Chronican said.
“The local NAB branch and the bankers we employ can play a key role in supporting communities and customers through change, and this decision provides certainty that we will continue to be there for them.”
However, that pledge does not cover the already planned closure of two unnamed branches, which the bank said are “in regional cities that are home to multiple branch locations”, due to “the advanced stage and significant investment in upgrading services in those cities”.
It follows 13 community forums the bank held in regional and rural areas in 2018.
As a result of those forums, NAB will soon open four new “customer connect centre” in an attempt to better service the needs of agribusiness and small business customers, as well as local customers.
The first of these will open in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on 1 April 2019. The remaining three — earmarked for Tamworth, Bendigo and Bunbury — are scheduled to open later this year.
“We are determined to find more ways to be a better bank and will continue to take actions that put customers first,” Mr Chronican said.
My Business contacted Australia’s other three major banks — CBA, ANZ and Westpac — to comment on whether they, too, will offer a similar commitment.
A Westpac spokesperson said that the bank is committed to rural and regional Australia beyond just branches, including relief packages aimed at drought assistance and the recent North Queensland floods.
“We understand the challenges our regional and rural communities are facing, which is why we have introduced a wide range of initiatives to support our customers and their local communities. This includes our continued commitment to keep our branches open in the many drought-affected areas across Australia,” they said.
“We have also invested $20 million a year, for the next three years, in our [email protected] partnership with Australia Post to ensure our customers in regional and rural areas can continue to access over-the-counter banking services.”
Meanwhile, an ANZ spokesperson said that the bank “regularly reviews its branch network and makes decisions about opening and closures on a case-by-case basis”, but noted that “the bank already has a policy of not closing branches in drought-affected communities”.
CBA had not responded by the time of publishing.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.