As internet banking took hold the question emerged: what will happen to the bank branch? 

Australia’s big banks have always maintained their branches are an important channel for customers to do their banking, even as more transactions occur online. 

Coronavirus has only accelerated that trend and forced branches to close just as millions of consumers had urgent questions about their financial future.

Today NAB has unveiled its plan to use its real estate and staff differently. 

From mid-August, NAB will introduce a new model for its small regional branches that will still serve the communities they are involved in and protect jobs. 

Under the new model, NAB will adjust opening hours across 114 smaller regional branches, with bankers splitting their time between over the counter service and digital or phone banking support, as more customers move online.

NAB Group Executive Personal Banking Rachel Slade said these branches would be open from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm for customers and outside of these hours the bankers would support customers by phone and online chat, as well as application processing. 

“It is clear the face of banking is changing, especially in the way customers want to interact with us,” Slade said.

“Our branches continue to be a really important part of many local communities, especially for local businesses. On average a quarter of transactions take place between 9.30 am and 10.30 am in our regional branches.” 

Bank tellers will be trained in customer support, including on the phone and online chat, which will give them the ability to work remotely. During the coronavirus crisis more than 450 bankers were trained in new skills to support customers in different ways, the bank said. 

“We think this move will strike that balance, keeping the doors open at 114 branches around the country and providing the opportunity for around 300 bankers to learn skills while we continue to serve our customers well,” Slade said. 

According to NAB, over-the-counter transactions are declining steadily and have reduced by a quarter in the past year. More than 90 per cent of NAB’s customer interactions are now taking place online or by phone, and more than half of our customers log onto NAB banking via the app or online each month. 

However, alongside providing jobs and serving customers who prefer a face to face interactions, local bank branches also play large roles in communities, for example by sponsoring local supporting teams. 

“We are there for our regional customers and communities – and we will continue to invest in our colleagues to give them the skills they need to do their jobs into the future,” Slade said. 

The new operational hours will come into effect from Monday, 17 August 2020.

Yesterday Westpac announced it would move 1,000 overseas customer service positions to Australia, following a surge in demand for customer assistance at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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