Opening statement by Ross McEwan from Senate Committee Inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia

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The following opening statement was made by Ross McEwan, NAB Group Chief Executive Officer at the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee hearing in Canberra, ACT, on 20 September 2023.

Thank you, Chair and Committee members, for the opportunity to make a brief statement today which builds on our previous appearance before the Committee in Sale in March.

I attend today with my colleagues Rachel Slade, Group Executive for Personal Bank and Krissie Jones, Executive for Retail Banking who hold direct responsibility for our branch network.

Right now, banks, just like retail, media, entertainment and the government itself, are experiencing rapid changes with how customers interact with them and access their services and products.

Digitisation has ushered in a new era of convenience, and we are all adapting to these dynamics. Today, 93% of interactions with our personal customers occur through digital channels – and this is growing – in fact, our data shows us that digital adoption is occurring at the same in regional Australia as it is in metro areas.

Only 3% of our personal banking customers do their banking exclusively through a branch and we now processing more than 1 billion payments online annually. In contrast, our Corrigin branch in regional Western Australia, for example, averaged only 6 transactions a day last year.

At the same time, we are acutely aware that our customers still value personal service and the expertise our bankers at NAB provide. NAB is a relationship business and that will not change.

Over 50% of NAB’s branches are located in regional areas and we continue to invest in regional centres that our customers visit frequently for their banking, shopping and, of course, their medical appointments.

Over the last three years, we have invested over $100 million in 68 regional towns across every state and territory. We have more than $22 million of regional investment planned in the months ahead, with local builders on site right now in Ballarat, Gladstone, Kalgoorlie, Warragul and Warwick, with construction in Moree starting shortly.

In addition to these locations, our commercial partnership with Australia Post allows us to bring NAB banking to more than 3,400 locations nationally – to put this into perspective, this is more than three times as many than we have ever had in our 165-year history.

1,150 of these are in regional locations that currently have no other bank branch and many of them have never had one. During a recent trip to WA, I used Bank@Post in Eneabba, a small town of 140 people, where NAB has never had a branch.

The decision to close a branch is done with careful consideration of how our customers are visiting and using the branch, the availability of alternative banking options and our ability to attract talented bankers to serve our customers.

We employ over 2,300 people across regional Australia. Collectively they travel thousands of kilometres each week, meeting our customers on their farms, properties and at their businesses. Their presence does not change when a branch closes.

Where a branch does close, every colleague is offered alternative roles within the bank. We are very proud that 98% have continued to work with NAB and are now busy serving customers nationally in a range of areas, including financial crime, fraud and NAB Assist teams.

My colleagues and I look forward to the discussion and your questions.

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