Australia and New Zealand Bank’s Foster branch closes for the final time tomorrow afternoon Thursday March 5, 2020, ending 133 years of continuous local banking history.
ANZ announced its intention to close the Foster branch at 64 Main Street on Thursday September 26 last year, first advising the three members of staff and then posting and emailing letters to each of the branch’s customers the same day.
An ANZ spokesman said “this decision was not taken lightly, and we apologise for the inconvenience this will cause some customers.
“We wrote to customers last year to inform them and we’ve allowed a closure period of about six months to work with them to find alternative ways to do their banking, including online, telephone and mobile banking,” the spokesman said.
“The digital economy is transforming, and we are seeing this trend in our business with many of our customers already preferring to use online services.
“Of customers who have Foster as their home branch, 68 per cent prefer online and mobile banking, compared to 14 per cent who prefer to use the branch,” the spokesman said, without indicating what the remaining 18 per cent of Foster customers liked best.
The spokesman added that “customers who want to continue face-to-face banking can do so at the Leongatha branch”, at 32 to 34 Bair Street, where all ANZ Foster’s accounts will be transferred to and based at from Friday March 6, 2020.
The spokesman said ANZ’s branch staff have been in touch with many customers since the closure was announced, helping advise them on alternative ways to do their banking.
“Some staff are still looking at other options [for themselves] within the business,” he said.
“For our business customers we have relationship bankers that will continue to visit local businesses in their locations and home loan specialists will also continue to service the local area,” the spokesman said.
“The ANZ ATM will remain in town to give customers access to cash withdrawals.”
The ANZ Bank’s Castlemaine branch in central Victoria will also permanently shut on Thursday March 5, 2020 in this round of Victorian branch closures, which also saw suburban branches at Gladstone Park and Endeavour Hills finish in November 2019.
Foster bank first founded 1887
According to notes written by the late Dr H.C. Wilson, Foster’s general practitioner from 1909 to 1952, and a keen amateur historian, Foster’s first bank was founded in 1887 when a branch of the Bank of Australasia opened.
The branch was located in a small room within a cottage near Western’s corner store in Main Street, in front of Thornley’s Hotel, on the site of the present-day Exchange Hotel.
Dr Wilson recorded that the bank’s opening was celebrated with the hoisting of the Union Jack, and the town was decorated with bunting to mark the occasion.
The following year, a four-room building to house the Foster branch of the Bank of Australasia was constructed north-west of the Post Office reserve.
The first bank manager was Mr E. Stanley Whitehead who remained in the position until 1904 when he moved to live in Port Fairy.
In 1947 the Bank of Australasia and the Union Bank merged to form the Australia and New Zealand Bank, which later incorporated the English, Scottish and Australian Bank (ES&A Bank) to become the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.
The ANZ Bank’s Foster branch building has served the community since it was built during the 1950s, with a renovation and facelift taking place in 1995, which included an access ramp, and later, automatically opening glass doors at the entrance.
The property’s current owners, Joe and Sandy Bucello of Foster, said the ANZ Bank’s lease of the building still had another year to run, though “we are now exploring all commercial options and are actively looking for another tenant.
“The bank building is part of the [IGA] Supermarket title [which the Bucellos also own] and will be staying as it is,” Mrs Bucello said.
“We understand that ANZ would be prepared to relinquish the lease should another business come along and want to take over the premises within the year.”