Bay of Plenty Times
BNZ to close its local branches
Grey Power concerned about elderly residents
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.