Commonwealth Bank branches in 90 regional locations will start closing early

CBA has decided to cut hours across 90 regional branches – 10 per cent of its total 928 branches across Australia from mid-September, in response to declining visitor numbers and the shift to online banking. 

Branches across NSW, the ACT, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania are set to operate from 9:30am to 1pm. And in the afternoons, staff will switch to assisting CBA’s contact centres which are receiving over 1 million “increasingly complex” customer enquiries each month (All of these locations have 24/7 access to ATMs).

“Having the largest branch network in the country is important to us. We continue to invest in our presence, with $53.8 million in FY20 to open new branches and renovate or upgrade existing branches to better meet customer demand and changing customer needs,” it said in a statement.

A shift towards digital

Despite having the largest branch network in the nation, CBA acknowledged the industry trend was towards fewer branches. They are regularly reviewing to make sure they are located in optimal locations. 

​​“We expect the gradual reduction in branch numbers and ATMs to continue over the remainder of 2021, in line with significant structural shifts in customer behaviour and preferences across a number of sectors,” the bank said in a statement.

The rationale for closing branches is the significant uptick in customer self-serving via their app or NetBank which now has 7.5 digitally active customers. 

Even before the pandemic, in-branch transactions have plummeted by 50 per cent over the last four years. Around two-thirds of CBA customers were using digital channels for their everyday banking needs. The pandemic has simply accelerated the shift to digital banking and contact centre services. 

However, not everybody can move to digital banking, especially the elderly and vulnerable people. CBA still allows customers to make withdrawals, deposits and bill payments via the Australia Post – under a 10-year partnership renewal this year. Outside of the new trading hours, Bank@Post will continue to be available at 3,500 Australia Post outlets. 

What does it mean for brokers?

This change has stirred up questions about the future of banking. As more customers make the transition to digital banking, we are curious how all this online activity is impacting the mortgage broking space. Will banks cast off brokers once they have streamlined home loan application and approval processes?

One thing we do know is that the more virtual we become, the more important it is that we connect and have face-to-face communications to support that virtual existence. Moving to digital is not just about more streamlined processes and having the latest technology, however, developing and maintaining relationships with customers still plays a crucial role in making a success. 

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