By Tyler Wright and Matthew Sims
Locals are seeing red after National Australia Bank’s (NAB) announcement it would be shutting up shop in Emerald in March 2024.
Menzies Creek local Karin Tonks said the bank has performed “poorly” in the area for some time.
“A daily three-hour open time whilst posting record profits is obscene,” Karin said.
“Now the closure will mean we are forced to drive to Berwick.
“We have less reason to drive to Emerald and will possibly move our shopping to Berwick for convenience.”
Karin said local traders with NAB will be required to travel further for change and this may influence them to change banks.
“Very poor service indeed,” she said.
For Gembrook’s Linda Granieri, the closure will be “very inconvenient”.
“I have banked there for many years,” Linda said.
“I had a clue they were trying to shut it, first they reduced hours and then the staff were trying to teach/express to people to use internet banking.
“I’m old school and prefer to go to the bank for transactions etc.”
Linda said it’s a “real shame” for the town, and she is now forced to travel to Pakenham do her banking.
“Other shops will feel the pinch too, as I used to spend money at the fruit shop, butchers, etc,” she said.
She also can not change banks due to owning a business.
“I wish NAB would reconsider but highly unlikely.”
NAB confirmed it has scheduled to close the doors to the branch at 342–344 Belgrave-Gembrook Road on Thursday 7 March.
According to the bank, about 57 per cent of the branch’s customers only visited the branch once over the past year, with more than 70 per cent of customers also using other locations, including the recently refurbished branch in Knox.
There were 407 regular personal banking customers who visited the Emerald branch more than three times, while 75 personal banking customers visited more than 12 times, according to the bank.
In terms of personal banking transactions, the numbers of cash withdrawals fell by 28.95 per cent between 2020 and 2022, dropping from 3316 in 2020 to 2356 in 2022.
The number of cash and cheque deposits fell by 34.57 per cent and 33.47 per cent respectively.
NAB retail customer executive Karen Ford said the “difficult” decision to close the branch was made following analysis into the number of customers using the branch and an increase in the use of digital banking in the area.
“We made the difficult decision to close the NAB branch in Emerald because fewer customers are using it for their banking,” Ms Ford said.
“Just as they’re using online government services to complete their tax or a Medicare claim, locals in Emerald are increasingly choosing to bank digitally because it’s more convenient.
“Today, more than 93 per cent of transactions in Australia are taking place online, and this is increasing.”
Ms Ford said customers could continue to do their day-to-day banking through the Bank@Post service.
“Bank@Post is a significant investment for NAB which brings the convenience of banking services to more than 3400 locations nationally in partnership with Australia Post,” she said.
“There are no job losses as part of this change and our branch team have been offered other roles across the bank.”
Monbulk resident Kevin Jones said the Emerald closure, following shortly after the recent closure of the Monbulk branch, had made him consider leaving the bank.
“We already had our branch close in Monbulk, which they had boastfully branded as an Agribusiness Centre, given the business nature of the region,” he said.
“That counted for nothing.
“Now Emerald is following suit and it certainly makes you feel like swapping to Bendigo Bank, because they are cleverly filling the hole left by the big banks, which are already making obscene profits, yet closing down outlet after outlet.”
Some are calling on people to change their services to Bendigo Bank – where branch directors are “volunteers” in the community.
“Considering closing accounts and moving mortgage over to Bendigo bank. They seem to be more community focused and their products are comparable,” Karl Pedley said.
“The positive will be more people will transfer to the Bendigo Bank that can provide an over the counter service to Upwey, Belgrave, Emerald and Cockatoo,” Olinka Edwards wrote.
“Support the community Bank.”
The announcement attracted a string of comments from disappointed NAB customers on Facebook.
Alexandra resident Peter Rice said the closure of the Alexandra NAB branch had led to a number of negative impacts for the area.
“It has caused massive difficulties for many and impacted the local economy significantly,” he said.
“The Federal Government should not be allowing this.”
Rebecca Robson, who works in aged care, said the closure will affect the elderly community “greatly”.
“Some don’t have mobile phones so still need to go into banks to access their money. makes it very hard when there’s no bank anymore, a lot no longer drive so rely on carers and it was hard enough getting carer times to match with the bank opening hours when they were only open to 12.30,” she said.
“Getting taxis up here is also an issue for older folk who no longer drive so these bank closures are going to really impact elderly more than I can explain.
“Sad when these are the people that have built the community we all now enjoy, people who have worked hard all their lives and now can’t even access their own money , makes me incredibly mad.”
Glenda Holmes said she has just changed banks because there are no deposit ATMs on the mountain.
“Previously I would drive for over 30 minutes to deposit cash…Into an ATM! (no service),” she said.
“It has been amazing to go to an old fashioned bank & every visit there has been at least two other customers attending & two more flowing in as I leave.
“Many of these customers are being assisted to the bank by carers. It has been lovely to see such an array of people using the bank services.
“However if it must go… Then please replace it with a multi serviced ATM. Deposits a must!”
NAB customers are able to phone 13 22 65 to transfer funds, pay bills using BPAY, check account balances, managing loans, applying for new accounts, ordering statements, managing term deposits and talking to a home lender.
For more information about support NAB can provide, visit nab.com.au/customersupport