A non-major lender has said that it will close nearly 30 branches, affecting nearly 200 staff, as it “prioritises its investment in digital and broker/third-party offerings to meet changing customer needs”.
In a media statement, Bankwest today (18 July) announced that it would close 29 east-coast branches over a three-week period starting 17 August.
It has said that the closures will affect about 200 employees and that the bank will be “placing a priority on supporting” the affected staff over the coming weeks.
According to the CBA subsidiary, the move forms “the latest step in Bankwest’s strategic refocus on evolving and improving its offering to retail and small business customers nationwide”.
Bankwest’s managing director, Rowan Munchenberg, said that the lender knew it “cannot match the major banks’ nationwide footprint and also deliver world-class digital services”, so it will “prioritise digital channels and broker relationships”.
Mr Munchenberg said: “Many people still value face-to-face interactions, but customers increasingly expect seamless self-service options that allow them to do their banking when and where they choose.
“We’re seeing a consistent trend of customers choosing mobile banking over in-branch options for their transaction needs, with an 88 per cent rise in app logins over the past three years.
“So, we’re transforming our organisation to respond more rapidly to these changing customer needs by adopting new ways of working and embracing new technologies.
“But we know we can’t match the major banks’ nationwide footprint and also deliver world-class digital services, so we will prioritise digital channels and broker relationships.”
The change does not impact Western Australia, where the brand has its strongest brand and established footprint.
Instead, the closures will “concentrate” its east-coast footprint into 14 “key branches”. These remaining branches will be:
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Mr Munchenberg said that the change had been a “difficult decision”, given a significant number of east-coast colleagues would be affected.
“We will work with and support impacted colleagues in the coming weeks, doing what we can to help them identify other opportunities, be they within or outside of the group,” the MD said.
“We are writing to affected customers to outline options, such as using Australia Post’s [email protected] services and, for business customers, taking advantage of CBA branches.
“Ultimately, this change means we can provide better services to more customers in the future.”
Impacted customers are being informed of the closures and will receive guidance on alternative banking options available to them by email, letters and store signage.
Latest change in the Bankwest model
The decision to close the branches follows on from a raft of changes at the bank. In the past few weeks, Bankwest has announced that it has changed the way it remunerates brokers (with new calculations on upfront commission based on the value of the loan limit disbursed (utilised by the customer) minus the value of any offset account balances) and changes to its accreditation requirements for new brokers, which it has said reflect “evolving industry practice and regulator expectations”.
Speaking to The Adviser last week, the bank's general manager of third party, Ian Rakhit said: “I see this industry continuing to attract professional people to continue to grow our business, grow our share of the overall mortgage market, and I see the CIF recommendations particularly standing us in great stead for challenges that may be coming in the future.”
[Related: Bank announces broker accreditation changes]
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