Another bank branch is set to close in Ballarat in the coming weeks, continuing the trend of closures across the state over the last few years.
The Ballarat East branch of ANZ (in the Bridge Mall) has become the latest victim, joining more than 100 branches across all banks in Victoria, with the Bridge Mall location set to close on September 15.
ANZ has closed 32 branches across the state, including in Bacchus Marsh, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 with Ballarat East one of another eight to close in the near future.
The latest closure comes after Commonwealth Bank recently announced that its Sebastopol and Ballan branches would both close early next month.
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Commonwealth Bank's number of branches has been steadily decreasing since June 2016, from 1131 to 967 at the end of the June 2020 quarter.
The bank's number of ATMs has also seen a significant reduction with more than 800 removed in the same period.
Commonwealth Bank said there had been a 47 per cent drop in transactions at the Ballan branch with 35 per cent of customers already using the Ballarat or Bacchus Marsh branches.
NAB also closed its branch at 329 Sturt Street, consolidating it with the 1001 Sturt Street location, and moved its Wendouree branch to Delacombe Town Centre.
NAB closed 43 branches in the 12 months from March 2020 to March 2021, with the Ballarat branch to be refurbished as a banking hub and business banking centre late next year.
NAB said more than 93 per cent of its customer transactions were now taking place online, by video or over the phone, while ANZ said 70 per cent of its customers referred digital banking and many of its few remaining passbook-only customers had moved to debit cards for the first time.
Bendigo Bank also closed its Wendouree branch along with 10 others across the state since March 2020.
While the branch closures make good business sense for the banks, they could be leaving a gap in the available services in many areas, particularly for older people.
Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said bank closures could rip the heart out of a town.
"Bank closures compound the digital divide in our communities," she said. :It's all very well to say 'bank online', except not everybody has the tools, the skills or the money to do so."
"Online banking can also be more difficult for people with disabilities and older people. Before banks abandon small towns, they must ensure their clients are able to confidently continue banking through alternative means."
Ms King said governments needed to support people in improving digital literacy to make the shift of services such as banking easier.
"Governments also have a role to play, encouraging digital literacy (for example, by supporting the work of Neighbourhood Houses) and by supporting free or discount access to the internet for everybody (free Wi-Fi zones and public libraries, etc)," she said.
"Nobody should be left behind when services shift online."
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