Bank branches are closing across Australia at an alarming rate with over 300 closings in the last financial year alone.
These closures are having a “devastating” impact on communities, with older people forced to travel long distances to do their banking in person.
Angelo Strip in south Perth is one area where the impact is particularly felt.
Commonwealth Bank Australia is days away from becoming the third bank in less than five years to leave the Strip and locals are devastated.
The bank’s exit from the Strip is the latest to hit South Perth, with Westpac closing its branch on Mends Street on September 9, ANZ closing along Angelo Street in September last year and National Australia Bank packing its stores along the same street more than three years ago.
CBA regional general manager Karen Reid said the South Perth branch, which will close at 4 p.m. next Friday, had suffered a 75 per cent drop in transactions in the five years before the COVID pandemic -19.
But Financial Sector Union of Australia national secretary Julia Angrisano said ‘don’t believe the banks’ who claim customers prefer online banking.
“Our members tell us that the number of ‘over the counter’ transactions in a branch is often limited and once that limit is reached, customers are taken to a computer inside the branch or an ATM and shown how to do their online banking,” she said.
Ms Angrisano said the bank branch closures were having a “devastating impact” on communities.
“Older people who are not computer literate feel the impact the most as they are forced to travel longer distances to do their banking at the counter,” she said.
“Branch closures may impact local businesses who need safe places to deposit cash and are used to applying for loans and overdrafts at local branches.”
The FSU wants the federal government to investigate the provision of local banking services.
“We would like banks to be required to provide a minimum level of service to customers and to stop cannibalizing their network of local branches,” Ms Angrisano said.
Ms Reid said customers in South Perth who prefer the over-the-counter service still have access to that option, with nearby branches at East Victoria Park, 95 William Street, Perth and Booragoon.
“We found that 37% of customers in South Perth are already visiting these nearby branches,” she said.
“We recognize that some senior customers prefer to do their banking in person and that’s one of the reasons we’re proud to maintain the largest branch network in the country.
The closures come after WA’s first Coles Local supermarket opened on the corner of Angelo Street and Anstey Street earlier this month, kicking off the revitalization of the area.
The City of South Perth believes the bank’s impending departure has a silver lining.
City manager Mike Bradford said the ABC’s departure provided an opportunity for a new company to move in and be part of the Angelo Street revamp.
“We have seen a number of new businesses establish themselves in post-COVID renewal, including Snap Fitness, Next Door Restaurant and Bar, Stretch Lab Wellness Center, Split Coffee, Moe Sushi, My Implant Dentist, Lilypilly Florist and WA’s first Coles Local. ,” he said.
The former ANZ building on Angelo Street is now home to Snap Fitness and My Implant Dentist is in the former NAB site along the Strip, but there has been no sign of what will fill the soon-to-be vacant CBA site.
Angelo Street Pharmacy owner Marc Segler has been trading along the Strip since 1987, with his business now in its third location at 72 Angelo Street.
He said PerthNow banks had come and gone as they left the Strip.
“When I first moved to Angelo Street and saw a lot of retail space occupied by banks, I thought to myself what a waste of retail opportunity, but I quickly learned that banks bring people to them because all businesses that accept cash have to bank – and most of them are banking on a daily basis,” he said.
Mr Segler said he was “saddened” by the ABC’s impending departure from South Perth. He had used it for business purposes after the NAB branch on Angelo Street closed.
“Unfortunately for us, there are no more banks in the street to move to, which we would have if there were,” he said.
“From a customer perspective, we will miss the convenience of day-to-day banking and the ability to get change for our tills just steps from the pharmacy.
“From a street perspective, we will miss the extra foot traffic that, depending on where bank customers parked, would pass right outside our door.”
Manager Katherine Pettit, who has held the position for 10 years, said the pharmacy’s customers said they were disappointed to lose another bank branch.
“They feel like they’ve been pushed into online banking, which doesn’t sit well with some of our older customers who may prefer to use cash,” she said.
“It’s a loss on another personal and necessary service.”
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