FOSTER’S Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) branch is one of 90 regional branches across the nation that soon will only be open to personal banking customers for half the time each business day.
The Foster CBA branch, in Main Street, is changing to shorter face-to-face operating hours, from 9.30 am to 1 pm, on October 4, 2021.
Two more Gippsland CBA branches, at Maffra and at Orbost, will also be following suit, along with 18 other Victorian country branches.
CBA branches throughout regional New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, as well as in the ACT, will be moving to the new scheduling arrangement, too.
These 90 branches represent about10 per cent of the CBA’s current branch network.
As reported to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics earlier this year the CBA had a total of 928 branches, consisting of 839 CBA and 89 Bankwest branches, as at March 31, 2021.
A statement issued by the CBA said staff working in all of the branches affected by the altered opening hours “will serve their local communities in the morning and early afternoon before switching to supporting customers across Australia in the afternoon.
“Following close consultation with our people, these regional branches will continue serving local customers in branch from 9:30 am to 1 pm and then close to assist CBA’s Australian-based contact centres,” the statement continued.
“These contact centres are receiving more than a million increasingly complex customer enquiries every month on 132 221.”
The Foster CBA branch currently employs four staff members, a branch manager and three customer service specialists, who are supported by a travelling Gippsland area manager.
Anecdotally, “foot traffic” in many regional bank branches is more common in the mornings and at lunchtime than during the afternoons.
CBA customer service network executive general manager Mark Jones said the bank’s branches in regional Australia will “continue to play an important role in delivering customer service in their regional communities.
“This is an example of how we are adapting to meet changing customers’ evolving needs while ensuring jobs stay in regional communities,” he said.
“We’re expanding our Australian-based contact centre network from five dedicated locations to over 90 communities across the country, while keeping a physical banking presence and jobs in regional communities.”
Mr Jones said that all of the 90 local communities whose traditional branch operating hours are changing already have 24/7 access to CBA ATMs, and they will remain available.
“Outside of the branches’ new trading hours, Bank@Post will continue to be available at 3,500 Australia Post outlets for customers who prefer face-to-face banking services,” he said.
CBA recently renewed its 110-year partnership with Australia Post until 2032, so both personal and business customers can make withdrawals, deposits and bill payments, including with passbooks, during normal business hours.
“We understand these changes may be an adjustment for some of our customers, and the team at their local branch will continue to be available to help them find the solutions that best suit their needs,” Mr Jones said.
“We’re concentrating on offering a range of different but complementary options for millions of Australians to complete their everyday banking, including our branches, Bank@Post, our Australian-based contact centres, ATMs, and our digital services.
“In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in customers self-serving on the app or via NetBank, with CBA now serving 7.5 million digitally-active customers,” he said.
“Customers in older demographics are also actively engaging with CBA online. In a monthly comparison during 2020, more than twice as many customers over 60 accessed NetBank or the CommBank app compared to those who visited a branch in the preceding three-month period.”
The CBA also stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic has not changed how the bank determines its branch footprint and services, but this period has accelerated a shift in customer preferences towards digital and contact centre services.”