Our say: big banks’ closures hurting small towns

IT’S another nail in the coffin of rural Australia. 

Big banks uprooting their services from country towns, and leaving ageing communities with little options. 

News this week that the National Australia Bank will be reducing its operating hours to 10am to 2pm Monday to Friday at its Quirindi branch has sent shock waves through the community. 

And you can understand why.

Only a few weeks ago, NAB announced it would close its Bingara branch on May 31.

So people are asking the question, are the down-scaled hours an indication of what’s to come? 

Will Quirindi be the next branch to close its doors?

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has been vocal in his disgust at the conduct of the big four banks

“Closing small rural branch may achieve a slight saving on this banking monolith’s bottom line, but it means everything to local customers that are waving farewell to their banking services,” he said earlier this week.

“It means 20 fewer hours of work being done in Bingara, directly impacting employment in the smaller local economy and reducing visitation from customers who live on rural properties.

“By NAB’s own admission, 40 per cent of local customers visited this branch in person over the past year, no doubt including many seniors who may not be comfortable transacting over the phone, via an app, or by driving to Barraba or Inverell.

“I unequivocally encourage all regional Australians to tell the big four banks to bugger off – today’s announcement makes their complete disregard for country customers clear.”

Sure, banks might argue that streamlining services online is easier, cheaper and more sustainable.

But when banks axe face-to-faces services in small country towns – many of which have an ageing population – it’s the elderly who are going to get feel the pinch because they are less inclined to turn to online services.

For now, it’s a bit of a waiting game to see what other towns will be affected by the bank’s online focus.

While NAB insists it has listened to its customers, and that more people are turning to online services than ever before, pulling anything from a small country town is going to have an impact on the wider community.

Let’s hope the cuts end here.