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16th of July 2018

Economy



Last bank branch on Lefevre Peninsula to close, angering local community

More than 33,000 residents along a major stretch of Adelaide coastline will soon be without a bank branch after the district's last bank closes its doors.

BankSA at Semaphore is the last bank branch on the Lefevre Peninsula, which includes suburbs from North Haven to Largs Bay and West Lakes Shore.

The August 30 closure has prompted outrage from the local community, which has a median age of above 45 and includes a significant portion of elderly and vulnerable people.

Semaphore business owner Terry Pudie told ABC Radio Adelaide's Mornings program there were a lot of assisted-living people in the area who used bank branches to withdraw small amounts not possible to extract from ATMs.

"And the elderly people still live in a cash society and won't be able to get their cash out and will be restricted in what they can spend," he said.

Jane Mussared, chief executive of the Council On The Ageing in SA, said an increasing number of older people were on "the other side of the digital divide" and were "struggling with some of the technology involved in online banking and ATMs".

"These groups of people were living and loving their homes and communities, and need those communities to remain with services in their neighbourhood," she said.

"Banks have played an important role in preventing the financial abuse of older people."

Banks 'educating customers' not to come inside

As well as closing its Semaphore branch, BankSA will also close branches at Findon and Lower Mitcham, while a further eight branches from different banks are closing or have closed across the state in the past 12 months.

This includes Commonwealth Bank branches at Strathalbyn, Clare, Park Holme and Hutt Street in Adelaide; NAB branches at Burra and Kapunda; Westpac at Hindmarsh; and a Credit Union SA at Sefton Plaza in Adelaide's inner-north.

A staff member from one of the banks told ABC Radio Adelaide that it was their job to "educate the customers how to do their banking every other way other than come into the branch".

"But when our hours are reduced or the branch closes, we're told this is because customers don't want to come in anymore."

Finance Sector Union state secretary Jason Hall said its members had targets to migrate customers out of bank branches.

He said some tellers even had limits on over-the-counter transactions.

"If they do more than that, they're asked why they didn't migrate people out to other services or take them out to use the ATM," he said.

"Banks are fulfilling their own prophecy for profit and it is affecting our members and affecting our community."

But BankSA head of retail Ben Owen said it was not actively encouraging people to avoid entering branches, but was instead "ensuring customers knew what technologies were available to them".

"We have a digitised focus, so when customers come in and set up their banking with us, we look to offer them appropriate solutions around online banking."

Banking and shopping go together

Mr Owen said BankSA was "optimising its footprint" by closing three branches and investing instead in those at major shopping centres.

He said the bank's reinvestment was a "positive story" in "response to customer feedback" and was spending $9.5 million "this year alone to improve services" in branches.

"Our customers are telling us that they prefer to do their banking where they're doing their shopping and errands.

"This offers convenience and better accessibility for people because these shopping precincts already have ready access by public transport and community bus transport services."

Mr Hall said Semaphore customers who wanted to visit a bank branch would have to go to Westfield West Lakes or Port Adelaide.

"But what we've found in rural communities, where customers have to go to a different town to do their banking, they also do their shopping and they go to the bakery and coffee shop that's near the bank, so you lose that custom through local communities," he said.

"We're talking billion-dollar companies that are taking away what I think is an essential service."

Regional bank closures map Read More




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