THE Bendigo Bank branch in Korumburra will remain open for another three months “which will allow the community to show its support for an ongoing physical presence”, the bank said this afternoon (Thursday, April 22).

The Bendigo Bank provided the following information to Korumburra representatives, following meetings between bank officials and members of the Korumburra Business Association and Korumburra Roundtable, on the back of a public meeting on Monday night last week.

“Following a series of respectful discussions, the bank has confirmed its willingness to investigate options for an ongoing physical banking presence in Korumburra. However, for this to be successful and sustainable, this will require our existing customers and other individuals, community groups and businesses in the community to bank with us moving forward,” the bank said.

“This decision means the branch will now not close on 14 May as previously communicated.

“Instead, the branch will operate for an additional three months which will allow the community to show its support for an ongoing physical presence.

“This additional three months will also assist customers, in particular those not familiar or confident in using non face-to-face banking services, to become accustomed with the different banking options.

“The following services will be provided by the bank during this time:

  • Additional education on how to use self service solutions and other banking alternatives.
  • ‘Digital coaching’ for those customers not confident with self-service/online banking.
  • Support for passbook customers who don’t have a debit card to move to statement accounts and debit cards to allow them to transact directly with merchants or through Bank@Post.

“Additionally, the bank will look to put in place a Bank@Post fee waiver at Korumburra Post Office for customers that choose to continue to transact locally through Australia Post. This waiver would be in addition to the bank continuing to absorb a significant part of the cost already charged by Australia Post to offer this service to our customers.

“We take very seriously the role we play in local communities and we remain committed to supporting the Gippsland community.

“We look forward to working with the Korumburra community over the next three months to determine an outcome that balances the interests of both the Korumburra community and the bank.”

Jenni Keerie, who is on the Korumburra Round Table and the Korumburra Business Association, said it was a positive first step in the process to try and ensure there is a physical presence of the Bendigo Bank in Korumburra.

‘Why are they deserting us?’

So, the Bendigo Bank is staying open in Korumburra for three months but it may just be a delay to the ultimate closure of the bank, we are told.

Korumburra Business Association President Noelene Cosson said the group was still getting its head around what the bank’s offer might mean.

“It feels a little bittersweet in a way,” Mrs Cosson said on ABC Gippsland Radio this week,

“I suppose to get three more months is something for the community to show its support for the ongoing physical presence but, you know, I think it’s a little bit misleading. We don’t know exactly what this means yet, but we do know that the bank in its current format will close after that additional three months.

“What we have to sort out is what ‘ongoing physical presence’ means, and in the meantime, and assisting customers to move to not face-to-face banking, you know, and providing additional education and support.

“So, they don’t think we need a physical presence at the moment, in the way of a branch. If they’re going to drive more people away from face-to-face banking, what sort of physical presence, or what do we have to do to make them see that we do need physical banking presence in our town.”

Customers will be given the opportunity to go in and set up their online banking, to get their apps on their phone etc, but ultimately, it looks like the bank branch will still close.

But Ms Cosson said she was aware of people in the community that don’t use the internet and don’t have smart phones and community groups and businesses that do need the daily support of a bank branch in town.

“There are plenty of those people that you know just haven’t moved on with technology and they’re past learning it. I mean it’s bad enough for us to keep up with it let alone being in your 80s and learning about technology. It’s just doesn’t gel, does it, for those people.

“There is going to be a post office service to help those customers and they are going to waive the fee that was attached to that, the $4 fee so, hopefully, those people can be accommodated at our post office, but at the same time, you know, that’s not ideal either. The post office is tiny and there’s always a queue. So, you know, nothing’s that ideal.

“It’s going to be extremely inconvenient when it closes. I have coin that I bank every week, and things like that and there’s no other service in Korumburra that’s going to provide that and I’m only one of dozens of community groups in our town that needs coin services and things like that.

“But definitely I’ll get behind the bank if it means they’re going to do the right thing by our town for sure.”

Ms Cosson was asked why Korumburra need a bank.

“I just don’t believe a town our size, with over 4500 people in our actual town, and the same amount in outlying areas, should be without a bank, you know, we are a standalone town. We don’t need to be going to the next town to do our banking and it just doesn’t make sense that they want to desert us.”