Outrage after bank announces closure

Outrage after bank announces closure

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Bankwest Armadale will be just another vacant shop along Jull Street from January 19.

It won’t be a happy New Year for some locals who were outraged to learn of Bankwest’s intentions to close its Armadale branch early next year.

“Bankwest has made the decision to close its Armadale branch, effective 18 January 2024, in response to changing customer preferences, with 97 per cent of all customer transactions now being conducted across digital channels,” Bankwest General Manager Personal Banking Scott Spittles said.

The Jull Street store joins a long list of regional and metro bank branch closures over the past couple of years, despite widespread calls for a halt to the shutdown and pressure from an ongoing Senate Inquiry into regional bank closures.

In fact, just last month, Bankwest closed its South Perth, Baldivis and Osborne Park branches.

And its Subiaco branch was closed in July.

Last year Bankwest closed every last one of its east coast branches in one fell swoop, affecting up to a million customers.

It also reduced trading hours to its regional WA branches.

Then in February this year, the bank announced it would be exiting business banking altogether, with all of its business customers being moved over to Commonwealth Bank products and services.

Bankwest became a division of the CBA in 2008 in the fallout from the Global Financial Crisis.

CBA recorded a record net profit of $10.16 billion in the 2022-23 financial year.

The National Secretary of the Finance Sector Union Julia Angrisano has previously criticised the CBA for “taking the knife to Bankwest” and gaslighting customers over the attack.

“Banks like the CBA and BankWest promote the lie that large numbers of customers are migrating to digital banking, when the truth is that the banks are actively pushing customers into digital banking,” she said.

“BankWest and the CBA are hardly doing it tough. The major banks are so obsessed with profits that they have lost sight of their responsibility to the community to provide financial services. They act without any concern for their customers and dump them without a second thought when profits at particular branches decline.”

The writing is very clearly on the wall for face-to-face banking, with Bankwest itself saying it “expects to operate fewer branches in future” and justifying the move away from in-person customer service by its pivot to become “a WA-based bank for current and future homeowners nationwide by investing in improved digital and broker services for its homeowner customers”.

Still, the Armadale announcement has left many in the local community confused and angry.

“It’s criminal. With all these tech issues you are never guaranteed access, unlike having cash. They will take it away blaming others while rolling around in their big profits. Oh, it makes me so mad…Let’s be honest, countless banks were unavailable during Optus outage,” Tracey said.

“I was told when I joined this bank in August this year that they had just signed a new lease, can’t remember if it was for two or four years. One of the reasons I joined,” Loraine said.

“Armadale branch is always busy, I don’t understand this,” Effie said.

When the Examiner approached customers waiting for the branch to open last week, many were completely unaware that it was due to be permanently closed.

“What are we supposed to do now?” Alan said.

“This is not good. Not good at all. What about all the elderly people who rely on this place to be here?” Jeff said.

Bankwest General Manager Personal Banking Scott Spittles said customers “who prefer in-person banking can access Bank@Post services in Australia Post offices in local communities across the country, including at Armadale Shopping Centre, 400m from the current branch location”.

The Commonwealth Bank ATM in the shopping centre will also be available.

The nearest remaining Bankwest branches will be in Canning Vale and Maddington.

Mr Spittles has said that all staff currently working at the Armadale branch will be relocated or repurposed to operate in Bankwest’s “digital channels”.

Staff at the store confirmed they weren’t losing their jobs.

There are rumours circulating that violent threats to staff and incidents of vandalism were a motivating factor in the decision to close the Jull Street branch down.

Staff members were not able to comment on that.

But Acting Senior Sergeant Armadale Sub-District Justin Cominelli said he hadn’t seen a report of vandalism or harassment of staff from Bankwest over the past two years, nor had he ever had a request for increased patrols from the bank.

“The crime rate for the Jull Street Mall is actually down 20 per cent this month,” he said.

“Antisocial behaviour has always been a problem there, but since we introduced our bike team two years ago rates have dropped.

“No other business has closed because of it.”