Bank closures panned as ‘about capital, not people’

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullalliedpress.co.nz

Balclutha BNZ customers have reacted with shock and frustration to news the branch will close by June next year.

Last Thursday, the Australian-owned bank announced it would close eight metro and 30 regional branches in New Zealand by June 30, 2021.

Southern branches affected include Balclutha, Mosgiel, Cromwell, Winton, Geraldine and Waimate.

The move reverses BNZ’s pledge to retain its branch network unchanged until at least 2022, which it made in June last year.

Customers approached by the Clutha Leader as they used the Balclutha branch last week were surprised by the announcement.

Health 2000 employee Debi Chittock expressed shock.

‘‘Well that’s no good.

‘‘I’m also part of the local pottery club, and we do our banking here, too. I suppose we’ll have to consider changing now.’’

She said the closure reflected a gradual reduction in banking options in South Otago, affecting businesses requiring branch services, and the elderly and vulnerable unable to go online.

‘‘It’s frustrating. It always seems to be about capital, not people.’’

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan echoed those sentiments and said he believed the move was driven by pursuit of profit.

‘‘The incessant drive to increase profits by the overseas banks totally overlooks their duties to provide acceptable levels of service.

‘‘For the elderly and those that find themselves in a financially challenging situation, this change now creates further difficulties for them to contend with.’’

BNZ chief customer officer Paul Carter said it was breaking its pledge on closures due to the effects of Covid-19 on customer banking behaviour.

An increase in customer demand for digital services — accelerated by the pandemic lockdown — combined with new modes of working for staff, had led the bank to review its position, he said.

Mr Carter said the changes were part of a wider review of all BNZ sites to consolidate its workforce.

Branches would support customers to adopt ‘‘alternative ways of banking’’ during the period before the closures occurred.