Bank closes in 10 weeks
BY THE EDITOR – DAVID WARD
CUSTOMERS in the northern Wimmera and Southern Mallee region, which has a long standing history of banking with the ANZ bank for many generations, had a bombshell
dropped on it last week, when rumour started to circulate that the Warracknabeal ANZ branch is to be closed.
It is understood that ANZ bank senior staff met with local staff, at the branch last Thursday morning with the branch closed until 10.45am, when the internal announcement was made.
At the time of going to press yesterday, many ANZ customers still have not
been formally advised of the planned closure.
Further inquiry to the ANZ eventually proved to conﬁrm that the ANZ will be closing
the Warracknabeal branch on October 31. The ANZ says all Warracknabeal accounts will
be transferred to the Horsham branch.
It is claimed by the bank that changes from face to face, over the counter banking (generally forced by the bank through high charges and fees) to internet banking by
customers and an increased use of automatic tellers ATM’s has contributed to the demise
of the branch.
In a statement from the bank late yesterday afternoon,
ANZ District Manager, Mark Genua said, “our customers in Warracknabeal are increasingly choosing online options and automatic tellers as their main source of banking, which reﬂects a broader trend in the community as more services move online.
“This has been a diﬃcult decision and we apologise for the inconvenience we know this will cause some of our customers.
Mr Genua claimed, “of our customers, who have Warracknabeal as their home branch, only 17 percent of them currently use the branch as their main banking source with more than 50 percent preferring internet or mobile banking.
He said, “we have written to our customers to let them know about this closure and that they can continue their banking through options such as banking at the post oﬃce with ‘Bank@Post’.
Customers can also do their banking online and via the ‘ANZ app’ on their mobile device.
An ANZ automatic teller (ATM) will be located in Warracknabeal, either at the current branch location or nearby.
“We encourage customers to speak to the team at the branch before October 31, to learn about which of these banking options are best for them. ANZ will continue to work with the broader Warracknabeal community as our banking services change to make sure we continue to meet our customers’ various needs.”
“We are consulting the staﬀ members who currently work at the branch and are supporting them through this transition while making every eﬀort to ﬁnd them
redeployment opportunities with ANZ,” he said.
This follows a constant series of closures by various banks in regional Victoria in recent months, and the demise of many banks in smaller rural towns over the last decade or more, in many cases leaving towns without any formal banking services.
It was for this reason that the Bendigo Community Bank concept evolved, initially in Minyip and Rupanyup. The Community banking concept has proven highly successful in these communities around the country, contributing vast amounts back into their
Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Cr Graeme Massey told the Herald, “I guess this attrition
is somewhat inevitable. We’ve see it before, we can try to ﬁght it like we did with the
closure of Target many years ago, but these decisions are made at a high level, where
they really don’t care. Loyalty doesn’t seem to come into the equation with these business
heads in high rise buildings in the cities.”
“I guess all we can do is support those businesses that continue to provide a service in our community, so change your accounts to where they are still providing a service, and go with the other banks to keep them in our town,” Cr Massey said.
Local business manager and Warracknabeal Action Group vice chair Kathryn Wilken said, “it is extremely disappointing to see this decision made by people in their ‘glass towers’. These people have no understanding of where the roots of these bank businesses start and grow from. It is poor form that most bank customers haven’t been told as yet formally, and have only heard it second or third hand.”
“I personally think that because of the banks decision not to have a manager for some years and only employing casual staff at the branch, compounded by reducing trading hours to three days a week, it was inevitable, sooner or later,” she said.
When contacted by the Herald, both member for Lowan, Emma Kealy and federal member for Mallee Andrew Broad said, “we’ve seen it all before in our country towns. The big banks really don’t care about rural Australia. All they look at in the short term is the bottom line. We’ve tried to ﬁght over many years to save banks in our towns, with no
success whatsoever. Our best experience with banking is where communities have chosen to form community banks with the Bendigo Bank.
It has invariably been a win/win situation every time for these towns. They share the proﬁt, employ local people and put signiﬁcant amounts of money back into the community it is generated from.”
North West Real Estate manager John Hadley said yesterday, “ this news is a tragedy for our community. It is really quite devastating for our town and district, and particularly for those many loyal ANZ customers.”
“I can see it is really going to be an issue for those in their senior years who ﬁnd it
difﬁcult to do online business. The bank has forced internet banking on many customers for years with the intent of cutting staff and closing branches. It’s been clearly coming for a long time and the banks have had this in their grand plan for a long time.”
“It does make one wonder how long it will be before they come to realise that they are burning their bridges and in years to come, when it is far too late, that direct customer service is the difference in keeping loyal customers. I’m certain if the branch had been
run properly and a manager retained in the local branch,
that the branch would still be quite proﬁtable,” Mr Hadley said.