Bay of Plenty Times

BNZ to close its lo­cal branches

Grey Power con­cerned about el­derly res­i­dents

- Ali­son Smith · Waihi · Coromandel · Katikati · Scott Simpson

I don’t know what they’ll do, a lot of peo­ple don’t drive, they just walk up the street. Mar­garet Sole

Coro­man­del, Waihi and Whanga­mata¯. Bnzbranche­s will be closed by June 2021, and the Katikati branch by the end of March 2021.

Bnzchief cus­tomer of­fi­cer Paul Carter said Covid-19 had ac­cel­er­ated trends the bank had been see­ing for some time, with cus­tomers in­creas­ingly choos­ing to do their bank­ing on­line.

Changes to its branch net­work are part of aw­ider re­view of allbnz lo­ca­tions to con­sol­i­date its work­force.

“We­don’t take this de­ci­sion lightly. We­made our com­mit­ment on re­gional branches in good faith. Not on­ly­w­a­sit a com­mit­ment to the com­mu­ni­tieswe­serve, it wasalso a com­mit­ment to our peo­ple, as closing a branch used tomean los­ing jobs.

“How­ever, Covid changed every­thing. Our cus­tomers have em­braced dig­i­tal ser­vices and tools and our bankers are serv­ing cus­tomers ir­re­spec­tive of where they are. We’veshown­we­can work from any­where and there are job op­por­tu­ni­ties for all our peo­ple— it re­flects the on­go­ing shift in­howour cus­tomers are choos­ing to bank with us.”

The clo­sures willmean cus­tomers must travel to Whi­tianga from Coro­man­del Town, to Thames from ei­ther Waihi or­whanga­mata¯ — and Katikati res­i­dentsmust drive to the Cameron­rd­branch in Tau­ranga.

The de­ci­sion— part of na­tion­wide clo­sures of branches by thebnz— is be­ing hailed as “dis­ap­point­ing” by groups such as Grey Power, which has ac­tive­mem­ber­ships through­out the Coro­man­del, and will be “strongly ob­ject­ing to this ac­tion”.

They say it will im­pact on the Coro­man­del’s el­derly pop­u­la­tion but also the whole com­mu­nity in places such aswhanga­mata¯ where the bank has been a huge sup­port. Waihi Grey Power has­more than400mem­bers. Mar­garet Sole, speak­ing as a res­i­dent of Waihi, said­many Waihi peo­ple were re­luc­tant to use tech­nol­ogy and were still con­cerned about not be­ing able to use cheques.

“I don’tknowwhat they’ll do, a lot of peo­ple don’t drive, they just walk up­the street.”

How­e­verbnzsays bankers are of­ten wait­ing in empty branches for cus­tomers that do not ar­rive.

In the last six­months, around300 peo­ple have used the Coro­man­del branch, 400the Katikati branch, and 500the Waihi and­whanga­mata¯ branches, on­more than one oc­ca­sion, Bnz­fig­ures re­ported. The bank says each lo­ca­tion will keep a Smar­tatm for with­drawals, de­posits and trans­fers.

Coro­man­delmem­ber of Par­lia­ment Scott Simp­son says the Coro­man­del­was unique be­cause of its de­mo­graphic of re­tirees and re­mote­ness for on­line ser­vices.

“While I ac­cept­more and­more cus­tomers are bank­ing dig­i­tally, it is sad to see the clo­sure of these branches across our area. These branches were staffed by lo­cal­swho per­son­al­lyknewthei­r cus­tomers.

“BNZ ad­vise that they will help their cus­tomers with the tran­si­tion. This is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary aswe have ahigher pro­por­tion of peo­ple aged over 65 and in some places around the Coro­man­del ac­cess to the in­ter­net is not avail­able or very lim­ited.

“More­over, some peo­ple sim­ply pre­fer to do their bank­ing in per­son. This de­ci­sion re­moves their abil­ity to choose and it fol­lows hard on the heels of the re­moval of chequing fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

Grey Pow­er­whanga­mata¯ saidbnz staff had gone out of their­wayto help older res­i­dents adapt to the dig­i­tal era.“weare sorry that their ex­per­tise will­nowbe lost to us,” said Cushla Jervis, adding that com­mu­nity groups will suf­fer as­many rely on raf­fles to sup­port them.

The Coastal News re­port­ed­howa Whanga­mata¯ re­tiree lost his en­tire life sav­ings to a scam­mer pos­ing as a Spark rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­fore staff at Whanga­matabnzwer­e able to track it­dow­nand re­trieve the­money.

“Thankgod for the bank, oth­er­wisewe­would have been pen­ni­less,” said the 75-year-old­who did not want to be named, em­bar­rassed at be­ing caught out.

“They took in the vicin­ity of $20,000,” he said.

The fraud­ster claimed to be call­ing fromspark and got the­man to start up­his com­puter, ask­ing him ques­tions and get­ting himto open his emails and his on­line bank­ing.

“Be­cause we’ve been with [BNZ] so long they thought it strange that all this­money was go­ing over­seas and stopped it,” he said.“weare just so lucky that the girls at the bank are so well trained [on signs to look out for with fraud].

“This is the beau­ti­ful part of hav­ing a per­son­alised bank, if they took our bank­awayfro­mus I’d be dev­as­tated be­cause they­knowus. Wewere one of the lucky ones.”

The lo­calbnzbran­ch brought in ana­tional fraud ex­pert at the time, Bron­wyn­g­root from­cffc, to Whanga­mata¯ for a free and in­ter­ac­tive work­shop that­was booked out by lo­cals. Bn­zalso an­nounced last­week that it would soon close its Mount­maun­ganui and Greer­ton branches. They are among 32Bnzbranc­hes closing over the course of next year.

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