Major bank launches bold future strategy, invites brokers on board

by Robin Christie12 Dec 2012

Westpac has unveiled its plans to roll out a branch revitalisation that has been described as “their biggest transformation in a generation”.

Glass security screens and counters that separate customers from staff are set to become a thing of the past, as Westpac pushes on with its “Local” strategy.

The idea is to introduce so-called “Bank Now” branches that create an enhanced customer experience and allow them to have more personal conversations with local branch staff.

According to Westpac retail and business banking group executive Jason Yetton, the introduction of the new Bank Now branches was a direct response to the way customers were driving the technological changes now sweeping through the financial services industry.

“The advent of mobile banking, first through smart phones and now tablets, has completely altered the way our customers bank with us and as a result they want more advice from our staff about how to get the most out of their finances and how to plan for the future,” he said.

“Our Bank Now branches are designed exactly with those needs in mind with the layout and specific areas all tailored to make it easier for our customers and staff to have more personal conversations about the things that really matter.”

He added that there was still a great demand for face-to-face service, despite the rapid uptake of online and mobile services.

“I have always said that banking is a people business and our customers have been telling us that they want local people who know them and have the knowledge and expertise to be able to advise them on the big and little things in life.

“At our first Bank Now branch at Sherwood in Brisbane for instance, we have a bank manager, a local business banker, a financial planner, a home finance manager, a premium relationship manager and a number of personal bankers. This means we can meet all the financial needs of local people at the branch.”

So where do brokers fit in?

Staff at the Sherwood branch have already used its open-plan, interactive layout to host local mortgage brokers, and Westpac general manager, mortgage broker distribution, Tony MacRae explained that the new branch rollout will help Westpac to further implement its strategy of partnering with local broking talent.

"The new concept Bank Now branch rollout underpins Westpac's commitment to both local customers and our broker partnerships. Moreover, since launching our newest branch in Sherwood in Queensland, twenty two local brokers have already experienced the future of how we'll work together. For the past 12 months our branches have already become a destination for our business partners through the strength of our Local Broker Squad model, Bank Now elevates this relationship through new technology and banking innovation which will make it easier for broker's and their clients to deal with us locally,” said MacRae.

“Mortgage brokers are a key part of Westpac's overall business strategy, alongside the strength of our financial planners, business and personal bankers is an important aspect of our local distribution strategy. We are focused on delivering to the changing demands of customers right across the country, Bank Now will provide more opportunities to help deliver choice, channels and products for customers to have their financial service needs met through a local expert – this includes our mortgage broker partners."

As well as Sherwood, Bank Now branches are now operating in Queensland’s Surfers Paradise and Wanneroo in Perth’s northern suburbs. Elsternwick and Traralgon in Victoria will follow in December and January respectively, followed by progressive openings of refurbished and new branches in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and NSW over the course of 2013.

Westpac expects a third of its 680 retail and branches to be refurbished over the next three years. The remainder of the network will progressively be updated as existing leases expire.