Bank Australia is promising to recruit new local skilled workers in Morwell and is expanding its Moe contact centre after it announced it was closing its Morwell branch to convert it into offices.
Bank Australia distribution head Richard Irving assured customers the bank would retain its ATM at the Commercial Road building after it announced the September 30 branch closure.
The announcement signals the fourth branch to depart from the Morwell central business district in the past year, with ANZ and Bendigo shutting shop and Commonwealth Bank relocating to Mid Valley.
Morwell has two remaining branches in town, with Westpac open at reduced hours and the National Australia Bank on Princes Drive.
Mr Irving promised Bank Australia would “still have a strong presence in Morwell” after the branch closed and there would be no job losses.
“The building where the branch is located will be renovated to create space for two floors of office space, ready to house a range of new roles we’ll be creating,” Mr Irving said.
“We’re excited to be making space for more people who will work across different teams including contact centre roles, lending specialists, systems operations and fraud prevention.
“These are skilled jobs and we’ll continue to recruit locally to fill these roles in the coming months.”
Mr Irving said Bank Australia was “recruiting heavily” for more staff in Moe to help keep up with customer demand for remote services as more people shifted to online banking.
Advance Morwell chair John Guy was dismayed Bank Australia was closing its local branch which was necessary for those unable to carry out online or remote banking.
Mr Guy said Advance Morwell had recently shifted its finances to Bank Australia after Bendigo left town.
He also accused Bank Australia of abandoning its tradition in the Valley, after it was formed out of the former SEC credit union to become a customer-owned bank.
“Maybe our next move will be to the NAB, but I hope they don’t decide to do the same thing, it’s certainly frustrating,” Mr Guy said.
“If Bank Australia is still holding a presence in that building, why not have a couple of tellers on hand for customers, as there will still be plenty of room in there.”
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said he would contact Bank Australia on behalf of local residents to see if it was possible to keep some banking services in Morwell.
Mr Northe said the withdrawal of so many bank branches from town “did not send a great signal to the retail sector” particularly after recent major Commercial Road streetscape upgrades.
“Morwell residents are feeling like second class citizens. I understand banking has changed over time and that there are less face to face interactions,” Mr Northe said.
“However, it’s imperative that banks also put people before profits and ensure there are adequate banking services in local communities.”
Latrobe City Council was sending its economic development team to work with the bank to maximise ongoing employment opportunities for the community and help with the refurbishment.
NAB Victoria retail executive Mil Kairouz said the “Morwell team would continue to be there for customer conversations in the branch”.
“Any changes regarding the branch will be communicated firstly with our customers and team,” Mr Kairouz said.
The Express contacted Westpac as to its plans for its Commercial Road branch.