The National Australia Bank (NAB) branch in Narooma will officially cease it’s current operations from today (Thursday December 8).
According to NAB Executive for Retail, Tony Story, customers using the Narooma branch, have dropped by 50% over the last two years.
He said most customers now choose to do their banking online, over the phone, or by video conference.
For NAB Customers based in Narooma or Bermagui, it means they will now need to travel to the Moruya (44km from Narooma) or Bega (62km from Bermagui)NAB branches if they want to do traditional in-person banking.
Narooma local and NAB customer, Dianna Riley told East Coast Radio many people in the Narooma community are unhappy the branch is closing.
“My and my partner’s business accounts are with NAB but it’s like they don’t care about the community,” Ms Riley said.
“I think they made a commitment a few years ago to stick around for our personal banking needs,”she said.
The commitment Ms Riley is referring to occurred after NAB originally tried to close the branch in 2018 however after community consultation they decided to leave the branch open.
NAB Executive for Retail, Tony Story, said they’ve always listened to the community.
“There was a lot of passion from the community back then so we did commit to stay around longer to see if we could potentially keep the branch open but since then the number of people actually using the branch had dropped off,”
“I also think our options digitally, and at Australia Post to support people have expanded.”
Local customer Ms Riley said not everyone has the means to travel to Moruya or Bega or use modern technology or online banking.
“There’s old people out there who do not have computers and phones to do their banking on, and sometimes you just need to go into a bank branch,” Ms Riley said.
Tony Story confirmed a single NAB community employee would be sticking around at the current branch location over summer though, to help Narooma customers transition to banking at the Post office and to provide assistance with digital banking.
“Over the last year we’ve had about a 30% reduction in people coming into the branch to bank, so people aren’t banking less, they’re just changing the way they’re banking,” Mr Story said.
“December 8 is the closing date for the branch but we will have a community support member at the branch for anyone who gets stuck or needs a hand we will be there to help them for the next few months.”
“In Narooma, we know summer is really busy, so although the branch won’t have cash facilities, the community team member will literally be able to walk customers who need help down to the post office or help them in other ways.”
Naoroma Chamber of Commerce President, Dr Jenny Munro, said while some people in the community are unhappy with the closure, she applauds the bank for staying open after initially looking to close in 2018.
“I was involved in the committee with those early meetings with NAB to keep the Narooma branch open and it was from there that I got involved in the Chamber of Commerce,” Dr Munro said.
“While I have immense sympathy for people who are upset with the branch closing, the bank actually has my sympathy because they have done an amazing job to stay open for as long as they have,” she said.
“We saw many changes occur with covid where; we basically became a cashless community, there was obviously a downturn in business, and from there I think there have been meteoric changes in technology which were brought about from what happened during covid with working from home and those sort of things.”
NAB’s Tony Story guarunteed there would be no job losses from the closure as well.
“People should know that when we close branches in regional areas, there are no job loses attached, we shift those people to other areas of the business,” he said.
“So in Narooma for example, Sharee and Karen will go and serve on the telephone or online, where the customers are.”
Narooma Chamber President, Dr Munro, says overall NAB’s decision to close makes sense.
“I’ve been a loyal NAB customer for 45 years and I have nothing but the highest regard for the people who’ve looked after me,” Dr Munro said.
“I went in to deposit a cheque recently and the attendant said to me ‘did you know you can do this with an app on your mobile phone now?’, and I didn’t know that,” she said.
“We still have two banks in Narooma, the digital banking and the Narooma Post office so we just have to adapt and change.”
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