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Commonwealth Bank branches ‘temporarily’ closed to deal with coronavirus downturn

Commonwealth Bank will “temporarily” close 114 of its branches in a bid to survive the downturn from coronavirus.

The banking giant confirmed earlier this week it would reassign more than 500 staff to work in call centres and online to help with the huge increase in customers needing support but not wanting to access it in person.

Elderly customers, who typically do their finances in-store, have especially stayed away due to the risk of coronavirus.

“Since the pandemic was declared in early March, we have received more than one million calls and online requests for help. In particular, calls to our hardship line have increased by 800 per cent compared to the period before the pandemic,” a Commonwealth Bank spokesman said.

“Over the same period, visits by customers to bank branches have fallen more than 50 per cent in some branches as people follow social distancing and lockdown requirements.

“As a result we are stepping up our support for customers by planning to reassign, from May 7, about 500 branch staff to our call centres and online operations.

“This means we will temporarily close a number of branches across the country, primarily in metro areas.”

Commonwealth Bank said most of its closed branches will be within 5km of one remaining open.

Despite that, a number of regional Commonwealth Bank branches in NSW have closed including Thirroul, in the northern suburbs of Wollongong, a branch in Dubbo mall, one in Mittagong, in the state’s Southern Highlands region, and one in Wingham, near Taree.

CommBank’s move follows similar closures from ANZ, Westpac and NAB, which have all shut dozens of branches over the past month and retrained staff to work online.

The closures come as CommBank found itself in hot water earlier this week.

The bank automatically reduced 750,000 home loan customers to the minimum repayment required, meaning those who had set up to pay more as a strategy to pay off the mortgage more quickly and save thousands of dollars in interest were disadvantaged.

“With the current uncertainty surrounding coronavirus, we’re taking steps to continue providing the financial support our customers need,” the lender said in an email to its borrowers.

“By paying the minimum, you’ll have access to extra money should you need it.”

Customers can opt-out of the change but many financial advisers said the change should’ve been opt-in.

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