BNZ resurrects 5-day-a-week branches

BNZ Branches

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has announced that it will progressively re-extend its branch network opening times to five days a week over the next year in response it says to “growing customer demand for more face-to-face interactions”.

BNZ, a NAB-owned subsidiary which counts more than 180 branches across New Zealand, will begin by transitioning seven branches (Feilding, Matamata, Oamaru, Te Awamutu, Thames, Te Puke, and Wānaka) to five-day-a-week operations, with 9am-4pm business hours.

By April 2025, BNZ’s remaining branches will also transition to these full week-day operating hours.

Anna Flower, BNZ executive personal and business banking, noted that the decision to transition to primarily online and call centre-based operations with restricted branch operating hours was made during Covid-19 lockdowns. However, customers have since expressed their preference for a return to more face-to-face services.

“In recent years, we saw a massive shift in customer demand towards online and call centre services, which was accelerated hugely during the pandemic.

“We adapted quickly at that time by moving our bankers to where our customers needed us most, which saw us reduce the number of days many of our branches were open,” Flower said.

“Post-Covid, customer preferences have continued to evolve, and in those moments that matter, such as starting a business, dealing with a bereavement, or buying a home, we’ve heard from our communities and our personal and business customers that they want more opportunities to talk to us face-to-face.

Earlier this month, BNZ, along with New Zealand’s four other major banking institutions – ANZ, ASB, Kiwibank, and Westpac – committed to a three-year moratorium on regional branch closures.

The decision to extend the life of regional banks comes after the conclusion of a trial, which commenced in 2019, by the big five and TSB of co-located “multi-bank hubs”.

The hubs were centred around ‘Smart ATMs’ which provided customers with deposit and withdrawal facilities. Staff were also on hand to support customers with other basic online transaction services via tablets and phones (however, they were not permitted to provide financial advice or assist customers with individual banking products).

The New Zealand Banking Association (NZBA), which led the multi-bank hubs trial, reported that the hubs failed to achieve their intended goal, with “customers not indicating a significant demand for these physical services”.

“NZBA and the participating banks put a huge amount of work into developing the hubs trial. We are proud of what we delivered, and most of the hub network will remain,” NZBA chief executive Roger Beaumont said.

“It showed there is real community support for regional banking. However, it also showed that, even with almost all banking services provided, the customer use for a multi-bank hub is lower than many single-brand bank branches.

“For those reasons, we believe regional New Zealand is better off if banks maintain their current branch networks for three years, instead of closing regional branches and replacing some of those branches with an alternative, such as hubs.”