23 Nov 2018

Kiwibank customers 'appalled' by branch closures

6:53 am on 23 November 2018

Kiwibank customers are outraged at news their local branches are being shut.

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Kiwibank is closing three branches and opening 13 new banks, which will stand apart from New Zealand Post. Photo: RNZ

The state-owned bank yesterday announced its Johnsonville, Petone, and Stoke branches would close.

Today, it announced the opening of 13 new, stand-alone bank branches, which would not be associated with a post shop.

Outside the Johnsonville branch today, locals were unanimously against the closure.

"I'm appalled! I thought Johnsonville was a progressive and vibrant little community," said one resident, Sylvia.

"If they close that down, I might be tempted to go down to one of the other banks, and I don't want to because I like dealing with Kiwibank."

Other locals, like David, agreed.

"I don't think it's a good move at all. There are a lot of elderly people in the area, the area's on a growth path," he said.

"Here we are on the main street of Johnsonville, the other major banks are represented, and they're taking Kiwibank away."

Some customers spoken to were worried, because they could not use internet banking.

Kiwibank said its Petone, Johnsonville and Stoke branches were all within 10km of another Kiwibank - and it would not close them until the attached Post Shops locked in new premises.

Kiwibank spokesperson Geoff Waller said the bank had to balance its desire to be in every community with "rapidly falling" demand for over-the-counter services.

"There's just not a demand for this many physical branches," he told RNZ.

"The average customer goes online once or twice a day and goes into a branch once or twice a year."

The new bank branches will be scattered throughout the country and could take roughly nine months before opening.

The split away from sharing premises with NZ Post will allow the new banks to be designed for more in depth conversations, rather than transactions.

"We do have very differing needs for our customers at the moment," Mr Waller said.

"Our customer feedback is that they want a place where they can come in and sit down; they're not in an environment which is heavily transactional and busy and a thoroughfare. They want a nice place to have those conversations."

Although there was no timeframe for all premises to become separate, it would "naturally occur" over time, he said.

The announcement of the closures has become political.

Nelson MP Nick Smith, Hutt South's Chris Bishop and Ohariu's Greg O'Connor have all gone in to bat for their patches.

Speaking outside the Johnsonville branch, Mr O'Connor said the closure was crazy because Johnsonville was booming and the shop was always busy.

"Those who want to stop their money and their profits heading overseas, those billions that we've seen repatriated this year with the big Aussie banks... there is serious money leaving this country. Why would you pull out of the fastest growing area in Wellington at a time when people are starting to look at their banking requirements?"

Mr O'Connor has flagged his concerns with the ministers of Finance and State Owned Enterprise.

Public meetings against the closures are planned in Johnsonville and Nelson.

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