Bank branches have been closing at their fastest rate in two decades as the pandemic pushed more customers toward digital banking.

Since COVID-19 struck in early 2020 there have been 53 permanent shutdowns completed or scheduled for Queensland, according to bank figures and Finance Sector Union data. Nationally the number is almost 300.

Temporary COVID-related closures of some bank branches are continuing, and hundreds of ATMs have disappeared in a "real blow to communities", the union says.

FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said there had been a sharp rise in branch closures in the past two years and the number was growing at its fastest rate since the early 2000s.

"It's a real blow to the forgotten Australians," she said.

"Not everybody can move to digital banking - people with disabilities, those with low levels of digital literacy, and those with English as a second language or limited access to transport."

Bosses of the four major banks are scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee on Thursday and Friday this week.

Ms Angrisano said workers were feeling anxious about their future and she called on banks to outline future branch closure plans "so we're not dealing with death by a thousand cuts".

"The pandemic has fast-tracked the closures - it forced people to move to digital banking as a necessity to keep people safe and at home," she said.

Of the Big Four banks, ANZ has closed the most branches in Queensland.
Of the Big Four banks, ANZ has closed the most branches in Queensland.


"They have used the pandemic as an excuse to close branches at a faster rate."

A Commonwealth Bank spokeswoman said COVID-19 had not changed how CBA determined its branch footprint but had "accelerated a continuing shift in customer preferences toward digital and contact centre services".

Some recent regional branch closures had seen transactions drop by almost half in the past five years, she said.

NAB's executive general manager retail, Krissie Jones, said the bank's investment in services and locations was guided by how customers banked.

"More than 93 per cent of customer interactions are now taking place over the phone, by video or online," she said.

"Over the past several years, fewer customers are coming into branches and foot traffic has lessened dramatically. Over the last year alone, we have seen a further 30 per cent reduction in over the counter and basic servicing transactions in our branches.

"When we do close a branch, our goal is for no job losses … The branch team also work closely with local customers, the community, business and government stakeholders."

Last week Westpac and its subsidiaries Bank of Melbourne, St George and BankSA began closing or co-locating 48 branches, but it numbers have been dwarfed by ANZ, which has closed or announced plans to close 131 branches since early 2020. NAB has closed or is closing 45, the Commonwealth Bank 32, and Suncorp 20, the FSU says.

QUEENSLAND BANK BRANCHES

Closed or closing

ANZ

Aitkenvale, Broadbeach, Burpengary, Cairns, Earlville, Kirwan, Nerang, Paddington, Pialba, Smithfield, Torquay, Victoria Point, Woolloongabba, Beenleigh, Aspley, Beerwah, Childers, Mackay North, Mossman, Proserpine, Runaway Bay, Tewantin, West End, Coolum, Bribie Island, Gatton

Bank of Queensland

Kingaroy*

The Commonwealth Bank

Burleigh Heads, Everton Park, Kin Kora, Sugarland

National Australia Bank

Brisbane 308-322 Queen St, Kenmore, Virginia, Gordonvale, Nerang, Bargara,

Sandgate, Murgon, Morningside, Coolum Beach

Suncorp

Beenleigh, Burpengary, Elanora, Hamilton, Sherwood, Stafford, Victoria Point, West End

Westpac

Mackay North, Victoria Point, West End, Sunnybank Hills

Source: Bank figures, Finance Sector Union, regional media reports

 

* Bank of Queensland's Coolum branch was previously incorrectly listed. It has converted from a corporate to owner-managed branch. Kingaroy is scheduled to close in August.53 Qld bank branches close in a year.

Originally published as 53 Queensland bank branches close in a year



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