ANZ whistleblower details bank’s ‘deceptive’ tactics to close branches

Banks are deliberately subjecting customers to maximum inconvenience and deceiving the public about branch closures – and the major parties are complicit in ignoring the shutdowns.

That’s the claim of an ANZ whistleblower and the Australian Citizens Party (ACP).

The ACP says the blame for “massive disruption to millions of Australians” lies with politicians taking a ‘hands-off’ policy towards the banking system.

ACP research director Robert Barwick says Australians should be furious that political leaders “have sat on their hands while the major banks have used deliberate deception to rip out essential banking services all across the country”.

“They should be equally furious that [Treasurer Jim] Chalmers and [shadow treasurer Angus] Taylor have an agreement to essentially abandon their responsibility to ensure the Reserve Bank acts in the best interests of the nation instead of pumping billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars into the mega-profits of the major banks that are treating their customers appallingly.”

According to news.com.au, an ANZ whistleblower says bank executives direct staff not to serve customers who visit branches so they are forced to use ATMs or make phone calls. That enabled ANZ to use the absence of customers to justify closing branches.

What the ANZ bank says

An ANZ spokesperson has denied the whistleblower’s allegations.

“This account does not reflect how our branches or our people are encouraged to operate,” the spokesperson told news.com.au.

“We have over-the-counter transactions available in the majority of our branches – and in all regional branches.”

According to the whistleblower, staff at his bank were directed to have a “digital first mindset” and to direct customers to use the in-branch ATM or telephone – and even to do banking at the ATM for the customers – so the transactions would not be counted in the branch’s service statistics.

He said he and other staff members had received email directives like “over-the-counter traffic is up this month, don’t let it get away from you” and “try not to do any card activations in branch this month”. There were also verbal directives like “all transactions under $1000 must be done using an ATM”.

The whistleblower said he had quit his job the day an elderly, vision-impaired customer was struggling to use an in-branch ATM so he served her at the counter. He claimed a supervisor questioned him, saying: “If customers want service, it’s on our terms.”

Extent of branch closures

More than 400 bank branches closed across Australia in the year to 30 June 2023, despite three of the four major banks halting closures due to an inquiry, the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) said.

APRA stated: “This continues a trend that has seen branch numbers decline by 34 per cent in regional and remote areas and 37 per cent overall since the end of June 2017.”

It said that over a six-year period, 2106 bank branches had closed, including 798 in regional and remote areas.

The Regional Banking Taskforce, established in October 2021, has recommended that APRA review its points of presence collection to better understand how banking services are being accessed, including through digital channels.

Mr Barwick says: “The millions of bank customers who’ve been extremely inconvenienced by long bank queues and wait times now know it was deliberate bank policy to torture their customers into digital banking, to create fake stats to justify branch closures.”

Are you one of those customers allegedly being told to use an ATM or the phone? Are you happy to do that? Has your local branch? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Also read: Bank bosses’ claims on branch closures take a battering

Written by Janelle Ward

Energetic and skilled editor and writer with expert knowledge of retirement, retirement income, superannuation and retirement planning.

9 Comments

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  1. There is simple solution that the Government should legislate to ensure banking services are available for all people and businesses. To say banking services are available on through Post Office is not totally true, but also their buildings don’t have the necessary security of handling cash as a bank building.
    “The Government should legislate that the banking industry must provide full banking services in all towns, and suburbs. That is there must but at least one bank in each location. Failure of the industry to comply would incur a fine to all banks of no less than $100,000.00 per day after the initial 180 days after the legislation has been enacted”
    This would ensure that all people shall access to all banking services, along with businesses.
    This would ensure

  2. It’s fine to use digital when everything is functioning. There are other issues, for example recent Optus fail. Many businesses could not offer electronic services. On that basis many customers could not use phone, or EFTPOS.

    I had an incident with Commonwealth Bank of Australia recently. My new replacement card did not arrive: I had to request a new one.

    There was a time lag with this. The CBA do have cardless cash options. The difficulty here, is that it must be utilised at a CBA ATM. These are located at branches. Most of the ATM’s that were stand alone have been removed or taken over by other operators.

    I went to a number of locations where branches had been, to discover they were closed. Cardless cash was not so good. I live in a suburban area, this problem would be so much worse in a regional area, or outback regions.

    In many rural communities there are issues with mobile and internet coverage. Digital is not always convenient here there.

    I grew up in regional Victoria and travel frequently there.

    There is a senate inquiry into regional bank closures and I have lodged a submission to it.

  3. My guess is that this behaviour is a part of the strategy to get us all using the electronic system in preparation for the “cashless society.” Why are we being forced into converting to that system? Bigger and better profits for the banks, of course.

  4. Wouldn’t bank employees not actively involve in promoting a practice that would ultimately lead to the closure of their bank branch and loss of their job. If I was a bank employee I would discreetly avoid encouraging customers to do transactions at ATMs, online and by phone. Older employees may be entitled to a redundancy which could suit them if approaching retirement age but younger employees would need to find another job. With less and less bank branches open, these employees who may have not done other job roles would have limited job opportunities. In the matter of branches closing, my health fund NIB used to have one office in the Brisbane CBD in Queensland. Now that was shut permanently post coronavirus and the nearest office to deal with is in Newcastle. All claims must be done online or by post and enquiries done by phone or email. That means scanning in an account and submitting it through the NIB website or phone app.

  5. Well, some quick reading on the Australian Citizens Party is informative. I think we can ignore anything Barwich has to say. The below is extracted from the relevant Wikipedia page:
    ~~~
    ~””The Australian Citizens Party (ACP), formerly the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia (CEC), is a minor political party in Australia affiliated with the international LaRouche Movement which was led by American political activist and conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche.

    The party has pushed conspiracy theories, including that international action on climate change and indigenous land rights are part of a conscious fraud masterminded by Prince Philip, as part of the British Royal Family’s scheme to depopulate the planet. It ‘believes Prince Philip is trying to break up nation-states through the World Wide Fund for Nature and is involved in a “racist plot to splinter Australia”’”

    The party follows the LaRouche line of climate change denial towards the theory of anthropogenic global warming, referring to fears of global warming as “Hitler-Nazi race science”. The party espouses the claim that the Port Arthur massacre, in which Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and injured 37 others, was instigated by mental health institute the Tavistock Institute on the orders of the royal family, and that the Australian Liberal Party was founded by pro-Hitler fascists.

    The CEC’s policies have included introducing a national Glass-Steagall Act to “break up the banks”, establishing a national bank, introducing a moratorium on home & farm foreclosures, constructing high speed rail and the Bradfield Scheme, joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative, shutting down Pine Gap and opposing the existence of climate change among others.”

  6. This should not come as a surprise to anyone regardless of the bank you use. Exactly the same has been happening at NAB. You get waylaid on your way to the counter and redirected to the machines. You have to be quite forceful if you want counter service. And it is this sort of activity that allows the banks to claim no one uses counter service. I have even been told by a teller that they do not carry cash because it is a risk to them. And this was not a large sum of money but simply me trying to withdraw coins I had fed into the machine (which every single time breaks down) because they no longer have the counting machines at the counter. They have forced people into electronic banking and they know it. Then they cry crocodile tears when they make staff redundant.
    The only glimmer of hope is that for most people with super accounts, banks usually feature so a profitable bank profits the super account holder too.

  7. My wife went to our local ANZ branch to open a bank account for our 2 year old grandson. She had all the documentation however was told she had to make an appointment and come back a week later.

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