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.