Riverina community leaders have decried the priorities of a major Australian bank after it announced a multi-million dollar new hub in Wagga just weeks after a series of rural branch closures were revealed.
NAB has just announced the imminent opening of a new $2.9 million banking hub for Wagga even as the northern Riverina community of Lake Cargelligo braces for the impact when its NAB branch closes next month.
When NAB's Lake Cargelligo branch closes, it will be left with just one major bank in town - the Commonwealth Bank.
Weighing up the bank's priorities, Lachlan Shire deputy mayor and Lake Cargelligo local Paul Phillips was far from impressed.
"I think the bank is irresponsible to think they can build all these multimillion dollar places in the cities where I don't believe they need them and just walk away from the bush," Cr Phillips said.
"Over the years, the bush is where they have got their money to build [their business]... and I'm disappointed they have taken that way out."
As a solution to the imminent bank closure, NAB is directing its customers to take advantage of the Bank@Post services at the Lake Cargelligo post office.
Bank@Post allows members of many financial institutions, including NAB customers, to conduct cash, cheque and passbook transactions as well as check account balances.
But Cr Phillips said the services offered at the post office are very limited, leaving many customers high and dry.
Fellow Lake Cargelligo councillor Judy Bartholomew believes they've got their priorities wrong.
"They're only thinking about the regions, not the rural or remote parts of the state," Cr Bartholomew said.
Also the CEO of the local Murrun Bridge Local Land Council, Cr Bartholomew raised concerns about the impact bank closures will have on members of the local aboriginal community as the bank encourages its customers to go online instead.
"A lot of elders in our community at Murrin Bridge don't have access to internet banking," she said.
"Some don't even have bank cards, they still have the old fashioned passbook.
"It was easy to take the passbook into the local branch, but now there's a big concern [about what to do going forward]."
Wading into the affair, Wagga Ratepayers Association president Chris Roche said closing the smaller branches was really hitting the older generation hard.
"They are trying to push us all onto internet banking, but older people don't understand how that works," Mr Roche said.
"Also, where will people go to cash a cheque in the smaller towns [when the banks leave]? You can't."
But NAB NSW retail executive Tony Story defended the company's new banking hub in Wagga, saying customers are increasingly travelling to larger centres to conduct their banking.
"Over the last five years, the way that our customers are banking has shifted dramatically, with approximately a 66 per cent reduction in foot traffic at our branches and more than 93 per cent of transactions nationwide taking place online," Mr Story said.
"The way our customers are doing things is different. We're seeing many people who might have previously banked in a smaller town travel to a bigger centre to undertake their shopping, to visit a mechanic and to see the doctor, and it's at that time we're seeing them also do their banking."
Mr Story added that the decision to close its Lake Cargelligo branch was "not easy" and had been made due to the declining amount of foot traffic at the branch.
"We made the difficult decision to close the branch due to the steady decline in over the counter transactions," he said.
"We understand change like this is never easy, and we'll be helping customers who need additional support by introducing them to their local Bank@Post service where they can continue banking in-person, as well as helping them get the most out of digital banking."
NAB confirmed there would be no job losses as part of the closure.
Mr Story said as a "booming regional city", Wagga was a great place to invest the $2.9 million.
"NAB's $2.9 million investment a new banking hub will better back the city's agricultural, manufacturing and exporting prowess," he said.
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