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

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The following statement was made by Krissie Jones, NAB Executive Retail at the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee hearing in Sale, Victoria, on 2 March 2023.

Thank you, Chair and Committee members, for the opportunity to make a brief statement.

NAB appreciates that this Committee is seeking to ensure regional Australians have access to appropriate levels of banking services across the nation.  We share that concern and acknowledge the responsibility we have to support all customers.

Banking, like so many other industries, is undergoing a significant transformation driven by rapid technological advancement and changing customer behaviour. The way we shop, get our news, work and learn, is unrecognisable from 20 years ago. More of our customers are choosing to manage their finances digitally, preferring the convenience and accessibility of telephone, online and mobile banking.  Today, more than 93% of our customer interactions occur digitally.

Very few people are visiting a branch, regularly or at all. Last year, only 3% of our personal banking customers solely used our branch network to conduct their banking.  As an example, an average of 10 personal banking customers used our Roxby Downs branch every month. Meanwhile, the average NAB customer logs into our app or online banking 33 times each month.

While the vast majority of consumers have driven and embraced the shift to digital, the challenge is to ensure customers in regional areas are properly supported.

We have invested in new premises in locations that more of our customers are visiting. Nationally, we have invested over $70 million in 51 regional towns in the last three years, with more than $30 million of further regional investment planned for this year.

These upgrades are taking place or have been completed in locations like Mildura, Rockhampton, Dalby, Emerald, Thursday Island, Albany, Nagambie, Launceston, Corowa, Tamworth, Mudgee – where we opened the doors to our new regional hub yesterday – and just around the corner here in Sale, on Raymond Street.

Closing a branch is not done lightly and is made with consideration of the number of customers visiting the branch, the availability of alternative banking options and our ability to attract talented bankers to serve our customers.

When a closure takes place, our local team works closely with customers up until the closure, to ensure they are aware of the banking options that will continue to be available. This can include continuing to bank in person at the local Australia Post as part of our 10 year partnership, using telephone or online banking, or having one of our business, agribusiness or mobile bankers visit at a time and location that suits them.

We also endeavour to provide a Community Banker when we close a branch in a regional area. This Community Banker is a NAB colleague, who is based at the local post office for a short time following a closure, to assist with the transition to banking at Australia Post.

Importantly, when we make changes to our branch network, all NAB colleagues are offered alternate roles with the bank. We’ve had great success in securing new career paths for our team members. Many roles which were previously city-based have now been opened up to remote working arrangements, to develop the careers of our colleagues in regional Australia.

NAB has already implemented the vast majority of recommendations from the Regional Banking Taskforce that apply to us, and are working with the industry and with government to implement the remaining recommendations by their mid-2023 due dates.  As we did in that Taskforce, my NAB colleagues and I are pleased to participate in this Inquiry.

-ENDS-

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