The Portland Business Association has been running a petition from local shop-fronts to assist in their campaign against the closure of the town’s last standing bank branch.
It is set to close for good in November, leaving behind a lonesome ATM and directions for people to take their every day banking needs to the post office.
While everyone appreciates the role of the post office in stepping in to continue that service, those who need to touch base with the branch itself will have to travel to Lithgow or Bathurst.
There are customers rethinking their mortgage or business banking arrangements now that there is no local tie between the CBA and the Portland community, so surely the bank is aware that this move may cost them customers. More confusing has been the correspondence coming from the CBA, proving in fine bureaucratic style that one hand is not aware what the other is doing.
On September 12, one Portland customer received a letter from new bank CEO Matt Comyn which noted that, in line with the rest of the banking industry as exposed by the royal commission, the bank had been “rightly criticised”.
“I’m sorry for the mistakes we’ve made. My job is to fix them,” the letter stated.
And then came the promises. The first of which was to focus on service instead of sales. And then there was “being there for those who need us most”, including drought-affected communities.
It all sounds good.
So customers were justifiably outraged when, two days later, a letter arrived confirming the closure of the Portland CBA branch, effective Monday, November 26. The closure notice had originally been announced via a sign at the Portland branch at the end of August.
Not only would the branch be shutting, the letter stated, but its staff would be moving to “one of our nearby branches”.
In a high unemployment area, the loss of jobs available within the local community for local community members stings just as much as the loss of bank services.
As resident John Kearns stated in his presentation to Lithgow City Council on September 24, it is the elderly and the infirm who would be most affected by the change.
Mr Kearns said he had read the bank’s 2018 report, pledging to be a good corporate citizen: “They are either being hypocritical or those visions have not been handed down to the decision-makers within the bank.”