Banks and the bush

The banking industry has come in for some heavy criticism in recent times for closing rural branches.

This week the banking industry announced a strategy to deal with this disgruntled section of the community.

Some of the options being considered are
 a jointly owned company to set up common service branches,
 agents that accept multi-bank cash deposits and withdrawals via EFTPOS,
 common branches in government buildings,
 apportioning of regions to certain banks,
 six weeks notice of branch closure,
 education on electronic banking and
 greater use of mobile and agribusiness specialists.

While these initiatives will no doubt have been well received one can’t help but think that the rural community should be looking to new ways of banking.

Let’s consider a “man on the land”. He lives an hours drive from the closest town and the branch of the bank he uses.

At month end when all the bills fall due he makes the long trek into town to transfer money from the account which all payments go into, to the cheque account. Of course he has to be there between 9.30am and 4.00pm, so things at the farm which he normally does during the day don’t get done.

Now consider the option of sitting down at a PC, logging into the internet and transferring funds between accounts.

Maybe he doesn’t have a PC, why not just phone the bank listen to some prompts and do the transactions by punching numbers on his phone.

The simple fact of the matter is that many bank branches are not profitable. With electronic banking becoming more popular customers have no need to visit their local branch for the everyday tasks of withdrawing or transferring funds.

The reality is that city consumers have adapted to and seem to prefer banking via electronic means, whether that is over the phone, the Internet, via EFTPOS or ATM.

While it is reasonable that the loss of a branch is of concern, it should be recognised that the banks can provide far more efficient means of banking, providing greater benefits to the rural community.