Bank branches pruned for online presence

The number of bank branches in Australia has shrunk for the first time in 11 years with branches pruned back to make way for the surge in online and mobile banking.

According to data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APCA) the number of branches in Australia fell for the first time in 11 years in the 12 months to June from 6631 branches to 6501.

Queensland saw the largest loss of branches, with 46 branches closing. Many of these related to the halving of the Rural Bank network. Nationally, of the four major banks, ANZ was the only one to experience branch closures in the past year dropping from 794 branches nationally, to 784, again with the Queensland network taking the largest hit.

At the other end of the spectrum, CBA was the fastest growing, gaining 132 new branches bringing its total to 1,158 branches around the country. However Westpac still has the largest network across the nation with 1,273 branches.

NAB has predicted that its branch network will eventually begin to shrink and has just opened its first 'smart store' in Melbourne. The new branch format uses self-serve style technology reminiscent of a supermarket.

Reductions in overheads will hopefully lead to more cost effective banking for the Australian public, but with service still a very high priority for banking customers (service was mentioned more than 8000 times in Mozo's People's Choice Awards survey of 28,000 Australians, higher than either fees or interest rates) banks will have to work hard to keep the balance right.

To find out who's getting the balance right between technical innovation and service (and who isn't) find out who won Mozo's People's Choice Awards for best bank, best mutual bank and more.