Westpac Milton Joins Other Branch Closures Across Various States

Westpac Milton
Photo credit: Google Maps Streetview

Westpac Milton has closed effective 24 March 2023, as part of a controversial move by the bank that reported a profit of nearly $5.7 billion in 2022, to close 20 more of its regional and suburban branches across four states.

This development comes amidst a widespread plea from the public for banks to halt closures until after a Senate enquiry has completed an assessment of the impact that the closures will have on affected communities.

The announcement came earlier in the year, barely a week after the Senate enquiry was announced and on the heels of the closure of over 80 branches since September 2022.

“Now my banking options are to go into the city, Ashgrove or Indooroopilly, or utilise the Milton PO which will act as an agent,” a Milton customer said, expressing her frustration over the move.

“Whilst it is obviously the banking model of today, I feel for pensioners and others who do not drive and now have to travel further to do their banking at a formal branch,” she adds.

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Westpac Milton
Photo Credit: Google Maps Streetview

Strong Reaction to Westpac Move

Westpac’s decision to implement widespread closures has been met with strong criticism, particularly in light of Westpac’s 2022 profit of nearly $5.7 billion, up 4% from the 2021 figure. The bank cut 2,667 jobs in 2022 and also cut costs by 19 per cent in the process.

“It is simply outrageous that Westpac can continually kill off jobs and close branches and nothing is being done to stop them,” Julia Angrisan,  Finance Sector Union national secretary, said.

A spokesperson for Westpac has made assurances that the majority of those affected by the job cuts will be given a new role within the Westpac Group. Those that don’t will have adequate “…financial and tailored career transition support available to help them secure employment elsewhere in the local community.”

The move comes as Westpac shifts its focus to its digital services segment, where the bank has more than five million active customers with what the bank perceives to be “changing expectations.”

“…  we’re investing in digital services so our customers can bank with us anywhere, at any time,” a Westpac spokesperson said. In recent years, the bank has noted that customer use of branches has changed and declined, leading to its decision to close their branches in selected areas.

“In these instances, we continue to support our customers by expanding access via Bank@Post, telephone, mobile and virtual banking,” Westpac said.

Bank Closures Affect the Community

Vulnerable segments of the community, such as the elderly, those with disabilities, or the indigenous community, are among those adversely affected by bank closures, a regional banking taskforce has found.

Local economies also face a decline as people travel to other areas to do their banking, potentially deciding to spend their money there as well, to purchase goods and services.

‘A Vital Service’

Senator Matt Canavan, chair of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport had previously called upon banks to show good faith and halt any planned closures until the Senate can complete its assessment of how the move would affect the various towns and local communities.

“Banks provide a vital service. When a bank leaves town with no way to access banking services, they leave that community behind,” Senator Canavan said in a statement made in February 2023.

The Commonwealth Bank has paused its planned shutdowns for the duration of the Senate enquiry. Westpac, along with other banks like ANZ and NAB, have not followed suit.

Submissions to the Senate enquiry are welcome until the end of March 2023. A Committee Report is expected by the end of the year.

Published 28-March-2023