Westpac has confirmed it has proposed closures for six of its 18 St.George branches in Brisbane, just as ANZ continues its own branch closures across two states.
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) reported that St.George branches in Ashgrove, Capalaba, Loganholme, Kippa Ring, Morayfield and Victoria Point in Brisbane will be shutting their doors in November.
In addition, Westpac Glenside in Adelaide was said to be closing; however, a spokesperson for the bank said the shopping centre in which the branch operates has been refurbished and its lease has not been renewed — the shopfront may be relocating.
Further, the union also stated Westpac alerted local politicians ahead of staff, which it stated it will be raising in writing with the bank.
According to FSU local executive secretary (Queensland) Wendy Streets, Westpac has closed 67 branches across Australia so far this year.
A spokesperson for St.George commented: “Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a significant decline in customer transactions undertaken through our branches, as more and more customers choose to do their banking in different ways, for example, digital banking.
“St.George Bank will continue to invest in Queensland branches where our customers are choosing to bank. This will include improving the technology and services we offer our customers across the state.”
While the union believes a total of 28 staff will be affected from all seven Queensland and South Australia closures, with only four to be redeployed, the bank’s spokesperson told My Business sister publication Investor Daily the job loss numbers were incorrect.
The FSU is concerned there is a lack of opportunities for workers to be redeployed or to maintain their employment by reskilling.
St.George has said it is in consultation with its people regarding the potential branch changes, and will support staff if they are to go ahead.
“There are 18 branches in the greater Brisbane area and with this latest announcement of six closures, the bank will be cutting 34 per cent of the branch network and 25 per cent of their workforce,” Ms Wendy Streets of the FSU said.
“It is not good enough for Westpac to put profits before people and communities. While the banks all claim they shut branches because customers are using internet banking, we know the real reason is that the branch doesn’t generate enough profits for the bank.
“How can Westpac claim to be working hard to regain the trust and confidence of workers and local communities following the Hayne royal commission when it has closed 67 branches so far this year across Australia? Closing these branches, deserting customers and making staff redundant is a disgrace.”
ANZ axes more branches in Victoria, SA
Meanwhile, ANZ has confirmed plans to close branches in Victoria and South Australia, adding to 20 that had been shut across the two states in the past year.
According to the union, ANZ branches at Gladstone Park and Endeavour Hills in Victoria will close in November, along with Burnside in South Australia, while Victorian branches in Castlemaine and Forster are to cease in March next year.
A total of 30 staff will be affected by the closures, according to the FSU. ANZ said it would be looking to redeploy impacted staff within the bank.
During the royal commission, ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott said branches were becoming “uneconomic”, as cash becomes more obscure and consumers opt to bank online.
A spokeswoman for the bank commented: “Our decision to close these branches have been made due to the decreased number of customers using face-to-face services in recent years.”
In the first nine months of 2019, ANZ has closed 20 branches in South Australia and Victoria, with 12 being located in metro areas.
David Scanlon, FSU local executive secretary for Victoria and Tasmania, said that ANZ had closed 33 branches around Australia in the past year.
“The major banks all hide behind the excuse that the numbers of customers using the branch has fallen because they are moving to internet banking, but we know that’s just a fairy tale,” Mr Scanlon said.
“The real reason the bank close branches is because the branch is not generating enough profits for the bank. It is a disgrace that ANZ is blaming customers for its ‘decision to shut branches’.”
He added banks should understand the impact on customers and local communities when they desert towns and suburbs.
“ANZ is dumping these communities and walking away from its customers and staff because it has chosen to put profits before people,” Mr Scanlon said.
The union has called for ANZ to consult with workers and communities before making the decision to close branches.
“The ABA [Australian Banking Association] [protocol] on branch closures should require banks to consult with local communities when deciding on the future of their branch networks,” Mr Scanlon said.
“In most cases, no community consultation is being conducted.”
In March this year, big four competitor NAB publicly offered a stay of execution on regional branches within its network, publicly committing not to close any of its 316 rural or regional branches until at least January 2021.
Separately at an investor briefing in May this year, CBA boss Matt Comyn scotched rumours that the bank was planning to slash branch numbers by 300 and cut 10,000 jobs.
However, Mr Comyn did state that “clearly, over time, both the number of branches and the size of those branches have reduced and are likely to continue to reduce”.
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth. Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.