Question and Answer
Why are we making these branch network updates?
The sole reason is due to member behaviour. Less and less members are coming into the branches to do their banking and now prefer to transact online. Therefore we must improve the services members are now expecting, these being online banking for simple transactions and 'relationship banking' for more complex interactions.
Is this only happening at Regional Australia Bank?
No. In fact, Jan-June 2016 saw 315 branches close among banks, building societies and credit unions. We are not immune to having to adapt to changing customer preferences.
How many branches will be affected?
There will be 2 branches (UNE and Orana Mall) that will be closed and a total of 19 branches will have some changes in hours.
When will these branch network updates take affect?
The changes to branch operating hours will occur at varying times over the next few months. Members who have transacted regularly in a branch will be notified in writing before changes are scheduled to occur.
Is Regional Australia Bank not performing? Should I be worried about the closures or reductions in hours?
No, and in fact, Regional Australia Bank has performed better in the last financial year than it ever has before. We have been slowly reducing hours in branches over the last few years in response to shifting consumer preferences and these updates are simply a continuation of that.
So - your performance is on the back of cost cutting, not because you are any good at what you do.
Our performance has largely been on the revenue side of our business, not the cost side - which means are very good at what we do. In fact, we remain one of the best mutual banks in the country for revenue growth and it's our people that have really helped drive this growth.
It's really important to understand this is not a cost cutting exercise. We have great people in our business however we must respond to changing preferences toward online services, and this continues to soar at an ever increasing rate.
Further, this response should not be viewed as a withdrawal. It's more of a refocus of energy and resources to ensure we meet our member demands to change. We are determined to provide a great customer experience for our members day-to-day banking needs as well as the highest possible level of service for members who come to us for more complex banking needs (bar none).
Shouldn't 'Regional Australia' Bank be more committed to its 'Regions' and maintain these services?
Regional Australia Bank is very committed to maintain a face-to-face presence where it is sustainable to do so. We understand that these decisions will impact on the banking habits of some of our elderly and small business members. We will be communicating directly with those members affected and working with them to help with changes to their banking habits moving forward.
You are forcing people to use your online services?
We understand that changes will be difficult for some to adapt to, however, we believe there is a difference between forcing people and following people. It's a fine balance. What we can say is that forcing would be to remove the service altogether - just as some of the major banks have done and continue to do in smaller communities over the last ten to fifteen years. Instead, we choose to follow services demand. This involves scaling back (but not cutting altogether) the services that are in low demand and investing in the services that are higher demand. However, we acknowledge that both forcing and following will always require some members to alter banking habits. The difference is in the number affected and the severity of the impact.
Why can't you reduce our community investment or sponsorships to keep the branch service open?
We pride ourselves as being connected to our communities. Redistributing some of the profits we make to our communities continues a longstanding commitment designed to help share the benefits of being a mutual. We have taken the view that reducing investment in other areas of the business in order to finance a service that is in steep decline is not sustainable in either the short or long term. It is far more prudent to streamline branch operating hours in areas of low demand so that we can continue to support our treasured communities and member interests long into the future.
If you didn't become a 'Bank' none of this would be happening! Right?
Wrong. We rebranded in August 2016, yet we had been slowly reducing hours in branches many years prior to this under our previous 'mutual' brand. This is simply a continuation of a program which seeks to follow the change in member behaviour.
We still maintain the same ownership structure. We are a mutual bank which means we are not conflicted by shareholder interest at the expense of the member. Providing value for members continues to be our sole priority and as it happens, what they are valuing most is the very thing that's driving these changes.
Now that you are a Bank, you are removing the personal service.
The demand for 'personal services' has changed and we have changed with it. Increasingly our members are coming to us for a 'personal service' that is more about providing guidance for more complex needs and this requires our people to have different skills and a strong rapport with members. While some members still value the over-the-counter transaction services, most of them do not. This is why 'personal service' is unrelated to becoming a bank and it's more about our members changing behaviour and our organisation evolving with their changing needs. These needs still require 'personal service' and we are increasingly becoming known for delivering this better than other financial institutions.
What about the lovely staff? Our local communities need employment.
We understand that our people are our biggest difference and we'll ensure that we continue to maintain assistance whenever help is required. All staff have been personally consulted and attempts were being made to offer changes in responsibilities to those affected in order to avoid redundancies and to create sustainable employment opportunities for the future. The changes to branch hours are in no way a reflection on their abilities or customer service. The care they display for members and the helpful service they provide continue to be second to none. We remain very proud of them and continue to value the contribution they make to members' satisfaction and to our organisation as a whole.