The head of one Australia's big four banks says the closure of regional and rural branches around the Border region doesn't mean it isn't investing in the area.
NAB chief executive Ross McEwan, who was in Albury on Monday, November 20, to meet with staff and customers, said it hadn't lost personnel and put millions back into the region despite parting ways with two branches in the past year.
"I understand the emotion and criticism of banks across the board doing that (closing branches). We have closed a couple in the area, but we've also invested very heavily with $1.2 million in the branch locally, and also $2 million into the business centre," he said.
"Transactions are reducing, most are done on a digital basis. About 93 per cent of our transactions are digital, so less and less are going across the counter at the branch.
"You've got to at some point make the adjustment and we're doing that. It's really important we leave our bankers in the communities they operate in.
"We haven't reduced the number of staff, they just may be in different roles. If anything the numbers of staff have increased this year when it comes to bankers.
"We would be the strongest rural and agri-bank in the Australian marketplace and we have lots more bankers than probably any other bank. We haven't lost the expertise in Albury and Wodonga and the local area."
Mr McEwan said a shift to more cashless transactions had also contributed to shutdowns of branches.
"Over the next six or seven years, things like cheques will disappear, but I do not think we're going to a cashless society," he said.
"I think there's a place for cash, but customers are using it less and less.
"Our customers shouldn't think that if they see the odd branch closure that we're not investing.
"We've got 3500 points of contact because of Australia Post and we now have a record of holding on to our colleagues who were in the branches as 98 per cent of them stay with us.
"You see more and more customers making determinations about where they shop as well. They come into town and centres like Albury to do their major shop and see the doctors, dentists, all the big purchases, so that's where we tend to be."
Mr McEwan said key issues discussed during his Border visit included a lack of housing and property being released for residential development, while staffing remained a challenge for business customers.
"I think businesses are optimistic, a little bit more cautious than they would have been six months ago, but still optimistic about areas of growth for their business," he said.
"This is a very big agricultural area and is very diversified in its agriculture. There'd be very few farmers who have just got sheep or beef, they've usually got sheep, beef and a lot of cropping, and that's certainly working well for them.
"Cost of living with inflation, as I keep reminding people, hits 100 per cent of households, because we all get hit for increases in petrol prices, increases in power prices, increases in food prices, and interest rates rises.
"That's what we have to really slow down and therefore movement of interest rates is probably one of the bigger measures that the Reserve Bank has.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of customers who need assistance, but they are actually still lower than 2019."
Mr McEwan said Australia was fortunate to have very strong banks that put back into the community.
"We have a balance sheet that is a trillion dollars, it's a huge balance sheet that we support customers right throughout Australia and New Zealand with," he said.
"We employ 38,000 people and the money we make is going back into communities, but it's also going to our shareholders that are mums and dads and investors and pretty much will be in everybody's super fund."
Mr McEwan will make his way to Shepparton and Bendigo later in the week.
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