Kirstin Nicholson, The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper
Cohuna has lost another of its bank branches with the closure of the ANZ Bank on March 19. It is the third bank branch to close its doors in recent years, following in the footsteps of the Commonwealth Bank and Bendigo Bank. The NAB is the only bank branch still operating in the district.
Staff from the branch have been relocated to neighbouring towns or have taken packages.
ANZ General Manager for Victoria, Cameron Home, attributes the closure to a dramatic shift in customer preference in using online and digital services for a myriad of purposes, from buying new sports gear to television viewing and convenient and secure banking.
“Last year alone 70 percent of our customers preferred digital banking options. Even our few remaining passbook-only customers have been choosing to use debit cards for the first time. Only 12 percent of our customers used branches during the same time, which means we were only completing about one transaction per customer per month over the counter. This follows a longer-term trend that saw in-branch transactions drop on average about 50 percent over the past four years,” Mr Home said.
Customers of the Cohuna ANZ branch were contacted personally in September 2020 with notice of the closure. Mr Home stated, “This allowed time for us to work with them on alternative banking methods, including online banking, mobile lenders and mobile banking. We have worked individually with our vulnerable customers to help them with alternative branches, digital options, using the contact centre more often and debit cards.”
Customers needing in-branch services are being directed to the Kerang or Echuca branches and, following the removal of the ANZ ATM, to use any of the other ATMs in town without financial penalty.
This is little solace to those who cannot use, or do not have access to online and digital options, or transport to other towns. The Cohuna Post Office can offer deposits, withdrawals and balance enquiries for most banks, however, because the ANZ Bank did not sign the 2018 partnership agreement with AusPost, its customers cannot access these services.
Former Cohuna branch staff member, Angela McNeil, who now works at ANZ’s Kerang branch, is available to service the Cohuna area. Anyone wanting to book an off-site appointment can contact Angela on (03) 5473 0900.
In another blow, Leitchville residents will soon lose their Bendigo Bank Agency at the Leitchville and District Development Group. According to the group’s committee members, the closure is a direct result of increased online banking throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the agency averaging just seven transactions a day. The Development Group was established 21 years ago and offered banking through Westpac before moving to the Bendigo Bank.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 8 April 2021.