Monday, May 23, 2022

Post office owners are the new bank tellers as big banks leave country towns

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Coraki Post Office owner Steve Taylor knows how difficult banking can be for residents when they are unable to travel to their closest bank in Lismore or Casino.

Coraki Post Officer owners
Coraki Post Office owners Paul Kelly and Steve Taylor. Photo: Contributed

“One lady in her 80s who is born and bred in Coraki got caught out with no cash,” Mr Taylor said.

She banked with ANZ and with the bank’s branches closed in Coraki and Casino, she wanted to get money from the post office. She couldn’t because ANZ don’t have a banking agreement with Australia Post.

“She has since set up with another financial institution to do a transfer from her bank so she can withdraw cash from the post office, Mr Taylor said.

“A local cashed-up farmer who has been an ANZ customer since forever and a day voted with their feet and shifted institutions.”

During lockdown there were residents who had to stay in Richmond Valley LGA and couldn’t go to Lismore to do their banking.

“They ran dangerously low on cash,” Mr Taylor said.

“I spoke to the police about these people going to Lismore to get cash.

“The police said they would back them.”

This is the implication of banks opting out of regional areas.

For banks, it’s profits over people, Mr Taylor said.

Banks are leaving country towns in their droves with 100 regional and rural banks closing in the past year.

Australia Post has stepped up to keep banking where it matters most – local.

Mr Taylor said banks had used post offices to service customers for years without paying the post office for that service.

That changed in 2020 when Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate negotiated a Bank@Post agreement with three major banks.

It made a huge difference, Mr Taylor said.

With 3500 post offices across Australia, the footprint of the post office is something banks can only dream of, he said.

Banks like Westpac, Commonwealth and NAB have signed up to Australia Post banking so they can service their customers in places where there isn’t a bank of their own. Many other financial institutions have also signed up, but ANZ refuses to do so.

“Post offices are family run businesses,” Mr Taylor said.

The Bank@Post agreement means the small post offices have an extra income they can rely by doing the banking for banks.

“It was a significant issue for post offices,” Mr Taylor said.

“Covid stimulus payments meant people were withdrawing from post offices.

“In a space of two days we pushed out tens of thousands of dollars.

“That’s how much banks are relying on post offices.”

Australian banks did a $220million deal with Australia Post which means every time someone does a banking transaction at Coraki or any other small post office, the post office gets paid a small fee.

“We’re technically paid to be a bank teller,” Mr Taylor said.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia has signed up for 10 years to allow customers to bank at the post office. Westpac only signed up for 12 months.

ANZ and Southern Cross Credit Union refuse to sign up meaning their customers have to travel for face-to-face banking.

“Local businesses have to travel to Lismore or Ballina with a substantial amount of cash to bank,” Mr Taylor said.

“There is a risk associated with that.”

The extra income has meant Mr Taylor could make improvements at the Coraki Post office including the installation of solar panels.

“If financial institutions continue working with Australia Post, it’s a good outcome.”

It is good for the banks who grow their network, good for post office owners and especially good for people who want to bank local.

See if your bank uses post offices for banking. The Bank@Post list is  here – opens in new tab

This article appeared on indyNR.Com on 24 October 2021.

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