Westpac extends lifeline to regional branches

Westpac Branch closures moratorium

Westpac has announced an extension on its moratorium on regional branch closures until at least 2027, matching a commitment by fellow big four bank CBA.

Westpac has also earmarked a $150 million investment over the next two years to support its branch network, maintaining its presence in 182 regional locations in Australia. The bank’s regional branch network, Westpac said, supports more than 2.2 million customers and 1,000 employees.

Jason Yetton, Westpac chief executive, consumer, said the bank will look to invest in branch services with a growing customer need, including increased business banking support.

“With many regional areas being thriving business and job hubs, this also benefits our small and agribusiness customers who have built strong relationships with our bankers who live and work in the area, and understand the local business landscape.

Yetton added: “We’ve heard the feedback from customers about the impact of branch closures in the bush and understand they face many challenges such as limited internet connectivity and increased travel times to their nearest branch.”

“People in regional Australia tell us the most important thing is that they want us to stay. That’s because they need banking services, and [while] that does take the form of digital services, for a lot of them, face-to-face is really important.

“They know their bankers, the bankers are part of their communities, and it’s an important part of us helping them to prosper and grow in the future.”

Westpac said it will also continue its co-location conversion program for its regional and metro branch network, which consolidates multiple Westpac Group brands and customer service teams under one roof.

“These co-located branches allow Westpac to invest and stay in communities,” Westpac said.

The bank has created more than 100 co-located branches across Australia, including 39 in regional Australia, including in Dubbo, Toowoomba and Port Augusta.

“This is really important for customers because part of our commitment is to stay in the town, but if we’ve got two locations in any community, increasingly we’ll bring those together in one location,” Yetton said.

He said the bank expects to have an additional 40 co-locations across Australia within the next three years.

“Over 115,000 customers have benefited from this [co-location branch] technology since it was rolled out in September 2023,” Yetton added.

Westpac said it will use this moratorium period to continue to educate regional customers about its digital banking solutions, which it said would “help address the barriers to digital inclusion in regional Australia, while also expanding its virtual service offering”.

“Our bankers and branches have a significant role in the digital transition. We’ll continue to expand these capabilities using the deep local knowledge and expertise of our regional teams by exploring if there is an opportunity to transform some branches into locations that can provide face-to-face service as well as virtual banking support for other regions,” he said.

Westpac initially committed to pausing regional branch closures until the conclusion of a Federal Government inquiry into regional banking closures. CBA has committed to halting regional branch closures until the end of 2026.