The definition of what makes a bank a bank has never been more important as National Australia Bank (N.A.B.) starts to quietly downgrade branches to cashless services.
Three banks in regional Australia have been affected by the move – two in Geelong and one at Broadbeach on Queensland's Gold Coast – and at least 12 metropolitan sites in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The change means these locations no longer meet the definition of a branch set out by the federal government authority that regulates the banking industry, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
Despite this, the outlets are still being listed as branches on N.A.B.’s website but do state they are “digital self-serve and cashless” when searched for.
As part of its regulatory role, APRA publishes an annual authorised deposit-taking institution (ADI) points of presence database that classifies institutions into three service levels: branches, other face-to-face and ATMs.
According to APRA, to be classified as a branch the “point of presence” must provide face-to-face service, accept cash and other deposits (including business deposits) and provide change.
The points of presence data are supplied by the banks already classified, but it is not known yet whether N.A.B. has reclassified its now cashless sites in the information provided to the regulator.
The sites are still listed as branches in the current points of presence data, published in October 2021.
N.A.B.’s retail executive for regional Victoria and Tasmania, Mil Kairouz, said the bank was investing in “smaller format branches” for the convenience of customers.
He said customers had access to smart ATMs at these sites.
The move comes at a time when there is more cash in Australia than at any time in our history.
According to the Reserve Bank, there were 1.9 billion banknotes in circulation, worth $95.5 billion, at the end of June 2021. Even its value as a percentage of GDP growth is at an all-time high of 4.9 per cent.
Dale Webster is an inaugural recipient of a Walkley Foundation Grant for Freelance Journalism on Regional Australia. She publishes independently through her own title, The Regional. You can follow Dale on Twitter @TheRegional_au.
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