Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp is considering closing 19 branches in New Zealand in response to the increasing use of online banking, First Union, which represents many of the bank’s staff, told Reuters on Friday.
Westpac consulted with staff about the closures during meetings at the branches attended by First Union members and representatives, the union said.
The New Zealand subsidiary of the Sydney-headquartered bank declined to confirm whether any closures were being considered.
“A proposal regarding a number of branches is currently with staff for their consideration and feedback,” a Westpac spokesman said in an email to Reuters, without elaborating on the proposal or number of branches.
“Customers, as they are around the world, are changing the way they bank and we are continually reviewing how to best meet their evolving needs,” the spokesman said in the statement.
Online transactions at Westpac New Zealand have risen more than 60 per cent over the past five years.
First Union said branches Westpac was considering closing were mostly in rural areas, though some were in the cities of Christchurch and Palmerston North.
The bank will consult staff over the next two weeks and decide by the end of September, with affected banks closing by October-end, First Union finance organiser Tali Williams said. The union and local mayors would oppose any closures, she said.
“It’s very out of the blue,” Williams told Reuters. “Local business and farmers who are making very big financial decisions are in these communities and need to make sure they’re talking face to face with someone.”
The bank has been adding automated services at branches, such as automatic telling machines (ATMs) that accept deposits. It has installed 20 such machines and plans five more this year.