Westpac opens up access to branches with cross-brand banking
Westpac customers vented their fury after a nationwide outage on Tuesday. Photo: AAP
Westpac has unveiled a big change to its branch access, and is allowing customers to make cash transactions at any of its Bank of Melbourne, BankSA and St George Bank locations.
The move bucks the trend set by some of the country’s other big banks, with Macquarie Bank revealing earlier this month it will phase out cash, cheque and phone payments for customers in 2024 in a move to digital-only payments.
Rival big-four banks Commonwealth and ANZ restricted access to cash at some branches earlier this year, with the CBA making its coin exchange service for business only.
Westpac’s move comes less than a week after major bank bosses copped a grilling in Canberra over thousands of branch closures and fears regional and rural communities are losing access to physical banking.
Chief executive Peter King said the change meant customers could make transactions at any of Westpac Group’s branches, opening up hundreds of additional physical locations across the country.
“This completes a major piece of work as we integrate technology across Westpac Group brands,” King said on Tuesday.
“We are simplifying and consolidating our operations so that we deliver better services for customers, no matter which Westpac brand they use.”
But Swinburne University professor Steve Worthington said the move would do little to make up for branch closures across the country in recent years, accusing Westpac of trying to pull a fast one on Australians.
“It’s an attempt to placate us by saying they’ve finally gotten around to accepting basic bank processing,” he said.
“It’s really an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.”
The new functionality builds on a “co-location” program Westpac began in 2021 that has brought two of its brands under one roof in more than 80 locations across Australia.
It means BankSA customers will have access to 488 additional branches nationwide. In turn, Westpac customers can use an additional 15 BankSA branches in South Australia.
Bank of Melbourne customers, similarly, will have access to 521 additional locations, while Westpac customers will be able to make use of Bank of Melbourne’s 95 branches across Victoria.
Communities in New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland will have access to 438 additional locations, including 102 St George branches for Westpac customers.
Services at each location will include deposits, withdrawals, fund exchanges, bank cheques and estate management.
‘Cash still vital’
Consumer Action Law Centre’s director of policy and campaigns Tania Clarke said the move was welcome if it meant more people could “walk into a bank, get easier access to their money, and talk to someone about their concerns”.
“There has been a 30 per cent drop in the number of bank branches in the past five years. It’s part of a worrying trend that has seen in-person bank branches closing, coupled with an increasing move away from cash,” she said.
“Banks have to remember not all their customers can, want, or need to go online.
“Cash is still vital in many communities.”
Worthington said Australian banks were behind those in other nations such as Britain.
There, a system is being trialled where banking companies share one location in rural and remote areas to ensure physical banking access isn’t removed.
“There’s one location and each of the big four banks there takes one day at a time to send a person out to sit at that location,” he said.