Global Push For CBDC Agenda? Australia’s Bankwest Bank To Close All Its Branches and ATMs to Become a Fully Digital Bank

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Australia’s Bankwest Bank has said that, in order to become a fully digital bank, it will close all of its branches and ATMs by the end of 2024.

The bank expects to shut the doors to 45 of its branches by October, with a further 15 to be converted to CommBank branches. 

Key points

  • Bankwest will make the leap to a digital-only bank in 2024
  • It plans to shut 45 of its WA branches by October while another 15 will be converted to CommBank branches
  • All Bankwest branch staff will be offered new opportunities within the bank

CommBank purchased the regional staple for $2.1 billion in 2008.

Bankwest executive general manager Jason Chan said, while the bank will support regular branch-users during the transition, the majority of customers already bank exclusively online. 

“It’s critical we prioritise investment for the majority of our customers who expect leading digital and broker banking services, and rarely use branches, but we have a clear focus on the needs of our regular branch users at this time,” he said. 

According to Bankwest, 97% of all banking transactions carried out by its customers are now completed digitally and under 2% of customers regularly visit a branch. 

Its WA branches see an average of around 30 over-the-counter transactions completed per day, and that number drops to 15 in regional WA. 

The news follows figures released by APRA last year, revealing more than 2,000 bank branches around the country have closed since 2017. 

Bankwest says it will contact regular branch customers to inform them of available support, including a network of community bankers, an assistance team in the bank’s 24/7 contact centre, and Bank@Post.

Customers will also continue to have fee-free use of CommBank ATMs, while Bankwest will offer to help transition around 2,000 who exclusively bank in-branch to its parent company’s products.

“Looking ahead, customers will have a clear and distinct choice between CBA’s personal and business banking offering and national branch network, and Bankwest’s simple and easy digital and broker offering, focused on homeowners’ needs,” Mr Chan said.

“CBA has the largest branch footprint of any bank, and all regional CBA branches will be open until at least the end of 2026.”

The decision to wipe Bankwest’s physical footprint has been labelled “outrageous” by Finance Sector Union national assistant secretary Jason Hall.

“Bankwest … has completely abandoned its customer base in order to cut costs and become a digital bank,” he said. 

“A range of Bankwest customers will be badly affected including the most vulnerable in our community. 

“Worst affected will be the elderly, First Nations customers, people whose first language is not English, and others who are not computer literate.”

Mr Hall is also concerned for the future of Bankwest’s staff, noting the bank should attempt to retain as many as possible. 

Mr Chan promises all employees will be provided with new positions in the company.

“They will all be offered opportunities to access the next generation of banking jobs so they can continue to support customers nationwide from in their own communities,” Mr Chan said.

However, Mr Hall argues those working in bank branches mighn’t want to transfer their skills to digital channels. 

“Our members who work in retail didn’t join the bank to work in a call centre,” he said. 

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