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Furious customers closing accounts after Aussie bank shuts all branches: ‘How dare they?’

Bankwest said very few customers actually use the remaining branches in the country.

Bankwest customers are seething over the bank’s decision to shut dozens of branches across Western Australia, prompting some to close their accounts in protest.

In a bid to become a digital-only bank, Bankwest recently revealed 45 locations would close their doors by October and a further 15 would be rebranded under the Commonwealth Bank banner. This will leave no physical Bankwest branches in the country.

Lyn will be closing all of her accounts with Bankwest after three decades of loyalty. She told Yahoo Finance she felt the move was “disrespectful” to many more vulnerable customers who would find it difficult to adapt to online banking.

Bankwest branch next to a picture of customers outside another branch
Bankwest is copping a lot of backlash for its decision to close dozens of branches in Western Australia. (Source: Facebook/Getty)

Do you have a story to tell? Email me at stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

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“How dare they limit our access to our own cash money and their services, which should be widely available to us,” she explained to Yahoo Finance. “My main concern is not for ourselves, but for our seniors, for whom it can be very difficult to adapt to the new technological ways, physically move around, drive or travel large distances.”

The WA resident said she’d noticed more banks in the local area disappearing and Bankwest was the last one standing.

“Why should we let them disrespect our poor, increasingly confused seniors, who are not so internet- and mobile-phone-banking savvy?” she said to Yahoo Finance. “Where is the compassion? Or the compassion to actually continue to provide the last bank in our town?

“Why should we all be disadvantaged, having to travel some distances to withdraw and deposit cash and to achieve our banking needs and services? Why should our already very busy post offices take on this huge amount of extra work for little to no compensation, with the already long queues to grow much longer? [It’s] stressful for everyone involved.”

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Another Bankwest customer, Colin, told Yahoo Finance it was “all a shocking frustration”.

“[I] can’t tell you how furious I am with Bankwest's abysmal absence of customer service,” he said. “Branches have closed. Online advice is rare, and ineffective, snail pace. Bank-mail is excruciatingly slow. [We’re] waiting hours for telephone advice.”

A Yahoo Finance poll revealed more than 58 per cent of readers preferred face-to-face banking and 34 per cent believed bank branches should stay open because it helped with cash transactions.

Digital trend to blame for branch closures

Bankwest said the decision to shut all branches in WA was based on data showing very few customers were doing their banking in person, but this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to them.

NAB copped similar criticism when it revealed it was shutting five branches in 2024, while ANZ has shuttered close to 300 locations over the past few years. Macquarie Bank said last year it would be phasing out cash and cheque services, while Commonwealth Bank also explained it would be reducing cash reserves in some branches.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority noted that in the 2023 financial year, there were a whopping 424 bank branch closures, 122 of which were in regional and remote areas.

It’s all largely due to customers choosing to do the majority of their banking online and Aussies using cash less.

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Only 2 per cent of Bankwest customers visit a branch regularly, and just 15 over-the-counter transactions occur in regional WA each day. Of the 45 branches earmarked for closure, 28 are in Perth and 17 are regional.

Bankwest executive general manager Jason Chan said the decision to close dozens of branches wasn’t easy and that affected staff would be offered roles in the company.

Bank closures hit ‘communities already struggling’

The bank has been invited to explain its decision more thoroughly at a senate inquiry. LNP Senator Matthew Canavan said it needed to justify its choice, which he said would negatively impact some Aussies, particularly those in regional areas.

He's called on executives to front the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Committee hearings this week.

“Our regional communities already struggle with employment opportunities, and removing the jobs that these branches provide impacts smaller communities so much more than metropolitan centres,” Canavan said.

“It’s quite clear that as a country we need to rethink the government’s approach to policy to protect regional banking services and ensure that it’s available to our communities.”