APRA launches public consult to better track banks’ physical footprint

Bank points of presence data APRA

APRA is seeking public input to improve its ‘Points of Presence’ data to help better and more accurately track the physical as well as digital presence of banking services across Australia and improve understanding of the impact of branch closures on regional communities.

Each year, the prudential regulator publishes its ‘Points of Presence’ dataset, which tallies the total number of physical banking service channels within the country.

The data covers a broad range of statistics on the presence of bank branches, ATMs, and EFTPOS terminals across major cities, regional areas and remote Australia.

For instance, data from the most recent update in 2022 showed a 7 per cent decline in bank branches and a 17.7 per cent decline in EFTPOS terminals in Australia between June 2021 to June 2022.

APRA said its consultation would seek public feedback on “how the data collection and publication can be made more helpful to users”, and examine “issues such as categories of data published and banking services covered”. This may include data on digital banking channels.

The consultation was triggered by ‘Recommendation 7’ of last year’s Regional Banking Taskforce Final Report, which seeks to track the impact of bank branch closures on regional and remote Australian communities.

“The Taskforce recommended APRA review its points of presence collection to better capture indicators of how banking services are accessed, including through digital channels,” APRA said.

APRA Member Therese McCarthy Hockey said the regulator acknowledged the “impact of bank branch closures on consumers and businesses, particularly those in regional and remote communities”.

“APRA’s data shows that over the five years to June 2022, branches have declined by 30 per cent in major cities, and 29 per cent in regional and remote areas.

“While the decision to close a branch is a commercial matter for individual banks and not something APRA regulates, our points of presence data collection plays an important role in ensuring proper transparency around the availability of banking services across Australia.”

McCarthy Hockey added that the APRA would welcome feedback “from all interested parties, including consumer and community groups, on ways we can improve our data collection and ensure it remains useful and relevant”.

APRA said its review would be undertaken concurrently with the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia.

The regulator added that it “looks forward to supporting the work of the Senate Inquiry through its review”.

The consultation closes on Friday, 23 June 2023.