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Banks closing branches, removing ATMs, hurting small business retail in Australia

Mark Fletcher
October 13th, 2020 · 11 Comments

Under the cover of Covid, banks are closing branches in Australia and removing ATMs in a shrinking of banking access. There is no consultation with customers, just an announcement or a sign on a front door.

Local bank branch closures are adding considerable cost to small business retailers in Australia.

While many bank branches closed under the first Covid lockdown back in March, plenty of these have since subsequently closed permanently.

In one of my own retail situations, in suburban Melbourne, our local bank branch, which is in walking distance, is closing. We face a 10 minute car drive, which means a roster change to deal with takings banking and disruption if we encounter a change shortage.

The closure of local bank branches makes going cashless more appealing to retailers. Maybe this is what the banks want. The retail network is expensive to maintain in terms of real estate and labour I guess.

While the closure of bank branches in March made sense, the continued closure after that lockdown ended was the first indication that banks were reconsidering their retail engagement.

Adding to the considerable number of bank branches that have closed in Australia, the closure of ATMs is impacting the shopper experience as well as the business owner experience. In another part of suburban Melbourne, one busy shopping street has seen five ATMs ripped out by banks.

Again, in my own experience, a local ATM at which we banked cheques, which are still a thing, has been removed, necessitating a drive as opposed to what was a short walk.

I get that all businesses are reassessing the infrastructure that is appropriate in a Covid and post-Covid (if it ever happens) world and that it makes sense that banks do this too. However, banks provide key services to Australians and local small businesses. They have a social responsibility to maintain these services. The extent of local bank branch closures in Australia will impact small businesses.

Again, in our own situation, for one of our shops, we are opening an account with a bank we have previously not dealt with as they have a branch a few minutes walk away and that is appealing compared to having to drive. It’s not ideal, but it is better than adding to our labour cost.


Category: Social responsibility · Ugh!

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bruce Holliday // Oct 13, 2020 at 8:05 AM

    If suburban/regional branches are no longer viable for the individual banks, maybe the ABA should consider a jointly owned service bank that could have branches in major suburbs/regions that can service the needs of customers from all banks. Surely today’s technology makes this possible?


  • 2 Mark Fletcher // Oct 13, 2020 at 10:53 AM

    I agree Bruce. Given what local branches are used for it makes sense that a shared service is offered. I think the suggestion is too much common sense for the banks to embrace.


  • 3 Graeme Day // Oct 13, 2020 at 5:07 PM

    I agree that we are being forced to go internet (cashless) is the way to go. As for ATM’s -some newsagencies offer them and some of them are benficial others,not.
    The Post Office will give cash out no charges if you have ID. Coles, Woolies will too however they are not usuallly in the places where the Banks are closing.
    Markets from newspapers to Banking are going IT and COVID is assisting this to happen faster than it was, howwever it was happeningr answer is as you say Going On Line and Going cashless. We need to aaccept change and go with it where we can.


  • 4 Steve // Oct 13, 2020 at 7:50 PM

    The problem here is that each of the former government owned banks were privatised many many years ago. Since that time the greedy bankers have sought to maximise their remuneration and shareholder returns by cutting costs and maximising revenue. First they reduced the staff in branches and introduced self service ATMs. Internet banking followed shortly afterwards again reducing banking staff levels.Electronic Eftpos facilities were then introduced enabling banks to not only further reduce their staffing but to charge the merchant for the privilege. Under the guise of Covid they have been busy removing the ATMs which started this whole cycle.

    I now long for a nationalised bank to compete against these vultures and to provide the service of yesteryear.


  • 5 Peter // Oct 13, 2020 at 8:03 PM

    Once there was a Royal Commission into banks with a whole raft of recommendations which Scotty agreed to implement as law at Federal Election. Then along came Covid and all of this policy as presented at an election got put on the back burner until Covid was resolved. Now Scotty wants to pass law that the responsibility for unethical lending (lending what a person can not be reasonably expected to repay) will be left with the individual and the banks will be totally untouchable for any wrong doing. At least the Bank Directors will be happy to as they will not be able to be held responsible for unethical Lending.


  • 6 Colin // Oct 13, 2020 at 9:06 PM

    What’s a cheque ?


  • 7 Amanda // Oct 14, 2020 at 6:56 AM

    I am seriously considering the cashless option as our bank has closed their branch in town. For us it is a 15 minute drive to the next town. Tyro is giving us better service now without branches.


  • 8 Bruce Holliday // Oct 14, 2020 at 10:51 AM

    Cashless doesn’t work if you are also a Lotteries outlet. Since COVID in particular, customers increasingly want to pay for goods (including Lotteries) with their card(s), but they always want CASH when they win!!


  • 9 Heihachi_73 // Apr 6, 2021 at 7:02 AM

    Ringwood Victoria has been reduced to just one bank branch with a 24/7 access ATM, which is a Bendigo Bank which of course charges $2.50 if you’re not with them. Every other bank hides inside the limited-hours Eastland Shopping Centre, and the one and only free ATM not located inside Eastland is inside another shopping centre, the smaller Ringwood Square Shopping Centre – a Commonwealth ATM which I’m half expecting to also vanish before 2022 and/or be converted to a generic non-free machine.

    If you need money out before 7AM (when Coles opens) you have to travel to Heathmont, Mitcham or Croydon if you don’t want to be charged for the privilege. Not even Ringwood East has a free ATM, as the ever-so-wonderful Commonwealth Bank removed the last remaining free ATM from there last year.


  • 10 jason // Apr 6, 2021 at 7:56 AM

    @Bruce “Since COVID in particular, customers increasingly want to pay for goods (including Lotteries) with their card(s), but they always want CASH when they win!!”

    Sounds like something that should feature in every ad for not-online lottery sales. You can’t get cash from an online lottery ticket, buy it in-store and get a cash payout. Easy!


  • 11 subaru // Apr 6, 2021 at 8:22 AM

    why should we be forced to pay merchant fees for eftpos/tap n go when cash is free to use?

    how do businesses deposit any cash they receive from customers if there are no branches available? no way to deposit means no $ in business bank account means not able to pay suppliers and other bills


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