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Westpac extends commitment to regional Australia

04:00am May 01 2024

Westpac will extend its moratorium on regional branch closures to at least 2027 in recognition of the unique challenges faced by many customers who live outside of the country’s major cities.

Those challenges can include limited internet connectivity and long travel times to reach their nearest branch. 

The bank will invest more than $150 million in its branch network over the next two years to support customers and employees in 182 regional areas, said Jason Yetton, Westpac Chief Executive, Consumer. It will also work with partners and local governments to improve regional banking services.

“This announcement gives certainty to our people, to our customers, and to these communities that we’ll be there to continue to provide banking services,” Yetton told Wire in an interview.

While Westpac customers are increasingly turning to digital channels to do their banking -- 5.9 million people now use the banking apps and online banking platforms -- face-to-face relationships are still important to many retail and small business customers in regional locations, Yetton said.

“They know their bankers, the bankers are part of their communities, and it’s an important part of us helping them to prosper and grow in the future.”

At the same time, the bank will continue to help customers to navigate the digital transition while it expands its virtual service offering, which allows customers to connect with banking specialists online.

Westpac’s service network is supplemented by its partnership with Australia Post, which gives customers of all Westpac brands access to 3,400 Bank@Post locations across the country, including 1,800 regional locations, for cash-related bank transactions.

“We can’t be everywhere, we’re not everywhere, but Australia Post is and they enable our customers to do what they might otherwise do in a branch,” Yetton said. That includes making deposits and withdrawals, paying bills, and checking balances.

The bank is also continuing to roll out its co-location strategy, where two Westpac brands and customer service teams are brought together under one roof. There are now more than 100 co-located branches across the country, many of which are in regional locations, with potential for 40 more in coming years.

Co-locating branches allows the bank to save on property costs while maintaining a presence in a location and keeping the bankers employed.

“Customers have told us that is the most important thing is that we stay in the town and keep the bankers who they know and who know them,” Yetton said.

In addition, a recent technology upgrade means that customers of any Westpac brand -- whether it be Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, St.George, or Westpac -- can do cash transactions at any branch, regardless of the brand.

Australia, like many other countries, is moving towards a cashless society – around 96 per cent of all Westpac transactions are digital. However, it’s not there yet and the bank is committed to making cash available to customers when and where they need it, Yetton said.

Customers can access cash at Westpac branches as well as with fee free ATM withdrawals at nearly 2,000 regional locations using atmx, Precinct and any big four bank ATM.

“Most transactions can now be done digitally, and for those that might be concerned about digital from a safety and security perspective we’ve been enhancing our digital capability so that the payments you make are safe and that customers are increasingly protected from the risk of scams,” Yetton said. 


James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

Josh Wall is the Head of Video at Westpac Wire. Prior to joining the team, he spent 10 years as a video journalist and documentary filmmaker, most recently as Head of Video for the Guardian Australia. He also worked across numerous News Corp mastheads in Sydney as a presenter, producer, writer and video journalist. Josh is originally from Perth, Western Australia where he began his career by co-creating a video magazine that focused on music and the arts.

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