5 October 2022

Yass bank customers face closure, cut to services

| Sally Hopman
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Bank building

The Westpac Bank in the main street of Yass will close on 16 December. Photos: Sally Hopman.

The Yass branch of the Westpac bank will close on 16 December, leaving the town, with a population of close to 17,000 people, with only one other bank offering a full-time shopfront service.

A spokesperson for Westpac confirmed on Tuesday, 4 October, that the Yass branch, in a historic building in the centre of town, would close in December, describing it as a “difficult decision” for the bank to make.

The closure of Westpac follows a recent decision by the town’s National Australia Bank branch to reduce its opening hours by half – from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm Monday to Friday.

Only the Commonwealth Bank remains open from Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am to 4 pm and until 5 pm on Thursdays.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson asked whether the Yass branch faced reduced hours or closure, said: “I am pleased to confirm that there are no plans to close or reduce our opening hours in Yass.

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“We are proud to serve the people of Yass and we will continue to do so through our branch on Comur Street.”

The decision to close the Westpac branch, that bank’s spokesperson said, was based on the changing habits of today’s customers.

“Declining customer use of branches means that in some instances, we may take a difficult decision to leave a branch location. In these instances, we continue to support our customers by expanding access via Bank@Post, telephone, mobile and virtual banking.

Bank opening hours sign

The Yass branch of NAB has been cut to half days, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

“For those who are new to digital banking or may require more assistance with the changes, we provide dedicated support and education to make the transition easier.”

The Westpac spokesperson said customers could continue to access similar services via Australia Post at the Yass Post Shop, also in the main street.

Asked whether the Yass staff would lose their jobs when the branch closed, the spokesperson said: “As we continue to adapt to our customers’ changing needs, this will result in new opportunities for employees within the Westpac Group as we grow our phone, digital and virtual offerings. We have a robust process in place to assist employees to find new opportunities within Westpac Group, meaning the majority of employees affected secure a new role and continue their career in the group.”

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Yass Valley Business Chamber secretary Jacquie Tewes said the diminished banking services in the Yass community was disappointing for all concerned.

“Not only will businesses miss this service but also older residents who rely on personal service with the tellers in the bank,” she said.

“It is a very sad situation for our community.”

Both the Commonwealth and the NAB are housed in historic buildings that include residential facilities in the main street. The Westpac spokesperson said the bank did not own the building in that street.

Commonwealth Bank sign

The Commonwealth Bank branch in Yass will soon be the only bank offering full customer service within its Yass storefront.

A spokesman for NAB said there were no plans to cut the Yass branch hours any further, nor to close the branch. He said by reducing the hours, staff could continue to stay in the bank’s employ by working in other areas, such as online, during the afternoon.

All three banks have ATMs in the main street.

The Bendigo Bank, a community organisation where profits are returned to the community that has directly generated them, has two successful branches in the Capital region, at Braidwood and Bungendore.

When asked whether the Yass Valley was within its sights as a potential community bank, a Bendigo Bank spokesperson said the process to establish a new branch “was a considerable undertaking of both time and local investment and can take quite some years to establish, even in ideal circumstances”.

“Decisions on future changes to our national brand footprint are made on a case-by-case basis and consider a range of factors including other available banking services, customer banking habits, unmet community needs and other local stakeholder requirements.”

Meanwhile, the final report of the Regional Banking Taskforce, issued last week, called on banks to do more to consult local communities when it came to branch closures.

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