13 Apr 2021

Banks promise no further regional branch closures this year

6:24 pm on 13 April 2021

Six banks are promising not to close any regional branches until at the least the end of the year but dozens of branches already earmarked for the chop will go.

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Photo: RNZ

ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank, TSB and Westpac announced today they would honour an earlier commitment not to shut any regional offices until a pilot of four small-town banking hubs wraps up.

The hubs provide basic banking services including a smart ATM and support staff.

The banks made the same promise in September 2019 but reneged on it after Covid-19 hit and customers' behaviour changed.

Following discussions with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, the promise has been resurrected.

Representing the six banks involved, Bankers Association boss Roger Beaumont said it was "not sustainable" for a single bank to have a single branch in a small community.

He told Checkpoint that banks "listen to communities we're part of".

"And I can assure that when a bank makes a decision to close a branch - particularly in a small community - that's not a decision they take lightly.

"They've got to listen to the way customers are choosing to engage with their bank, and as a result of Covid that form of engagement changed dramatically with the number of customers who were engaging more online or electronically rather than in a physical bank environment."

Beaumont said the minister was committed to the banking hub trial.

Banks had suspended the trial before because it was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, he said, making it "impractical".

Australian-owned BNZ last year announced it would shut down eight metro branches and 30 others in the coming months; among the locations for the chop are Huntly, Ōpōtiki, Wairoa, Balclutha, Kaikohe, Geraldine, Cromwell and Taumarunui.

Beaumont said any bank branches already slated to close would close, but there would be no further closures announced before the end of 2021.

"A few dozen that have been announced that are closing," he said without stating which ones. He later agreed it was more than a few dozen.

He said even though lockdowns had been lifted, the trend of customers not going into a bank building has continued.

"So what you're seeing is a double effect of not only more people banking online but [fewer] people physically going into a branch. Some of these regional branches are having [fewer] than 10 customers a day which just makes that traditional branch banking model unsustainable."

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