Westpac’s group executive Peter Hanlon has admitted the bank’s policy of shutting down branches was a big mistake.
According to Mr Hanlon, the bank’s decision to morph into automated services had increasingly frustrated its customers.
"Closing branches has been a complete failure. We have closed branches in places we simply should not have closed them. This is an admission we made a mistake," he said.
"Over the last 20 years we've taken away the capabilities of bank managers to get involved in any lending decisions, we've taken away their ability to hire their own people, we've even taken away their ability to sponsor the local bowls club.”
The bank is now attempting to correct the situation and as such, has hired 400 new bank managers this year and given them more autonomy.
"The bank managers now decide who they hire, when they open and close, they decide where their sponsorship dollars go, they decide on what to do with specific customer inquiries,” he said.
"I want us to be respected again. I want bank managers to be respected members of the local community and I think the work people like me have done over the last 20 years, while not on purpose, has engineered the drop in respect of the local branch manager.
"Australia is not a country of cookie-cutter towns and cookie-cutter suburbs, so why continue to have a cookie-cutter approach to banking?"
Mr Hanlon said the bank was committed to opening 200 branches in the coming years.
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