Bankwest to become digital bank, announces branch closures

Promises move will bolster broker offering

Bankwest to become digital bank, announces branch closures


By Ryan Johnson

In a significant shift towards digital banking, Bankwest, owned by CBA, announced it will close 45 branches (28 metro; 17 regional) in Western Australia by October 2024.

This move aims to refocus resources on its broker network and product offerings. Additionally, 15 regional branches will be converted to Commonwealth Bank branches by the end of the year.

According to Bankwest, more than half of its customer base is located on the east coast, where the financial institution has no branch footprint, and where more than 90% of home loans originate through brokers, making investment in the channel critical.

Bankwest executive general manager Jason Chan (pictured above left) said it was critical that the bank prioritises investment for the majority of its customers who expect leading digital and broker banking services, and rarely use branches.

“… But we have a clear focus on the needs of our regular branch users at this time,” Chan said.

“We’ve continued to evolve as a bank for almost 130 years, ensuring Bankwest has remained a sustainable, growing and successful WA-based business, and a major WA employer, in a highly competitive national banking sector.”

Bankwest to focus on brokers

Brokers have been a particular focus for Bankwest, with the WA-based bank championing its Broker Portal and national BDM model as examples of its commitment.

With its digital transformation, Bankwest intends to further invest in developing tools, services, and support specifically for brokers, solidifying its commitment to this crucial partner network.

Bankwest general manager third party Ian Rakhit (pictured above right) said the digital transformation had effectively already occurred on the east coast, and the financial institution’s broker network and third-party colleagues had helped create a blueprint to follow.

“Bankwest has established a strong relationship with brokers that is founded on mutual respect and genuine collaboration in delivering the best possible experience for current and aspiring Australian homeowners,” Rakhit said.

“Brokers are so important to Bankwest and the decision to pivot the business to free up increased investment to enhance its broker offering is a reflection of that importance.”

“We’ve been consistently working with brokers to understand their needs and pain-points and deliver the tools, services, and policy improvements that make their lives as simple and easy as possible, and I look forward to enhancing that offering.”

Bank@Post to substitute for branches

The decision to close branches was influenced by customers’ rapidly changing preferences, with 97% of transactions by Bankwest customers serviced digitally, while fewer than 2% of customers visit a branch regularly.

Bankwest’s branch network averages just 30 over-the-counter transactions daily, with that number halving to 15 in the regions.

Bankwest’s partnership with Australia Post ensures customers can continue to access cash services through thousands of Bank@Post services in local communities across the nation, while CBA’s extensive ATM network remains fee-free.

However, the use of Bank@Post to justify regional branch closures has long been criticised given that some transactions can only be carried out by banks.

Bankwest said it would contact regular branch customers to inform them of the key support measures, which include:

  • A program to transition 2,000 Bankwest branch customers across to CBA accounts so they can continue to access branches.
  • Bankwest Community Bankers in select communities where branches close, to help customers during the transition period with non-cash face-to-face service and support.
  • Bannk@Post services at 356 Australian Post offices across WA. 

“I understand this will be difficult news for some of our customers and Bankwest is introducing a range of measures to help our customers who use branches regularly carefully through this transition,” Chan said.

“Our branch colleagues have invaluable knowledge and experience, and they will all be offered opportunities to access the next generation of banking jobs so they can continue to support customers nationwide from in their own communities.”

Bankwest also said it would offer a new career opportunity to every branch colleague impacted by this change, so they can continue to serve customers nationwide.

What do you think of Bankwest's plans to go digital? Comment below

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