WODONGA business owners have condemned the planned closure of their centre’s Hume Bank branch, saying it will disadvantage them and older residents unable to drive elsewhere.
But the bank says shutting the Hume branch at Birallee Village Shopping Centre from November 17 reflects an industry-wide reduction in branch transactions.
Cafe Fifteen owner David McNamara said the Birallee Village branch, unlike others recently closed, did not have another option within walking distance.
It’s about all the elderly people or retired people who live around here, a lot of them don’t have transportDavid McNamara
“Up here it’s totally different,” he said. “It’s about all the elderly people or retired people who live around here, a lot of them don’t have transport.”
Other Wodonga Hume branches are in Wodonga Place and White Box Rise shopping centre.
“Having to try and travel down to High Street and get parking down there; you got to pay staff while you’re away to bank,” Mr McNamara said.
Several business owners and staff expressed similar concerns to The Border Mail, all highlighting the inconvenience to older customers.
Hume chief executive David Marshall said the decision to close the branch, which opened in December 2002, was not taken lightly.
“Our customer base is diverse, from kids at school right through to retirees and we’ve obviously got to match what we're providing in line with their needs,” he said. “I can understand people’s concerns; on the other hand we’ve got to respond to changing market conditions and branch transaction numbers are dropping significantly in all of the industry. That’s not being driven by us, that’s what customers are wanting.”
Colleen Templeman, of The Lollie Jar, said Hume was now “acting like a big bank”.
“Only a couple of days earlier I’d said that the Hume was the only one that took care of the whole of Wodonga because they had a triangle of branches,” she said.
“That just went out the window really, didn’t it?”
Helen Goldsworthy, of Simple Indulgence, said losing bank customers would affect spending at the centre.
“Even if they just go past and buy a card, it all adds up,” she said.
Birallee Newsagency owner Marlene Smedley said she was extremely disappointed by the announcement.
“In a small shopping centre we need everything,” she said. “If people don’t have to come here to do their banking they sometimes don’t come here at all.”
Mr Marshall said the newer Wodonga sites offered good parking and Hume Bank still had more branches than any other financial institution in Albury-Wodonga.