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Bank commits to no regional closures until 2026

Commonwealth Bank has pledged to keep all its remaining regional branches open until 2026.

Commonwealth Bank has pledged to keep all its remaining regional branches open until 2026. Photo: Getty

The stream of bank branches leaving country communities may be drying up after Australia’s largest banker committed to zero closures for the next three years.

Commonwealth Bank will keep all its remaining regional branches open until 2026 but has left the door open to reducing face-to-face services as it moves towards more “multichannel” branches.

A Senate committee has been examining the impact of bank closures across rural Australia, where more than 650 branches have shut since 2017.

The inquiry has heard farmers, small businesses, the elderly and vulnerable people in the bush have been left high and dry – often forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to the next town – as banks shut up shop.

CBA retail banking chief Angus Sullivan said the company wanted to keep supporting regional customers who preferred in-person banking, as digital and phone-based services took prominence.

“Today’s announcement ensures CBA continues to offer the largest branch network in Australia, providing customers across the country with a wide range of flexible banking options and locations,” he said on Friday.

While the bank is steadfast on keeping regional branches open, it is considering turning more of them into “multichannel” locations.

These branches provide face-to-face services for the first part of the day before closing to local customers at 1pm. After that, branch staff move to providing phone and online support.

“Multichannel branches allow us to maintain a strong physical presence across regional Australia, safeguard and upskill regional employment and help CBA meet increasing customer demand for phone and digital banking services across the country,” Mr Sullivan said.

A spokeswoman for CBA said no staff were sacked or had working hours reduced when the bank’s 90 existing multichannel branches were set up.

Nor did any staff get pay cuts as a result of the changes, and there would be no redundancies from future transitions to multichannel branches, she said.

CBA will also continue to provide face-to-face banking services through 1800 rural and remote Australia Post locations.

The Senate inquiry into regional bank closures has received more than 550 submissions and is due to report back by December.

– AAP

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