4 Dec 2009

Westpac admits mistake in closing local branches

5:29 pm on 4 December 2009

Westpac Bank has admitted it made a mistake in closing its local branches in the 1990s in favour of centralised banking and is reopening 10 new community offices.

The first will be opened on Friday Huapai near Kumeu north-west of Auckland.

The head of Westpac's retail banking, Bruce McLachlan, says the recession has shown the need to work more closely with customers and reverse a nationwide trend.

Ten years ago, he says, it was thought branches would be replaced by internet banking; but customers still like to talk to local bankers face to face.

Andrew Dinsdale, from accounting and advisory firm KPMG, believes the move is the result of market pressure from Kiwibank, which has by far the most branches of any bank in New Zealand.

Mr Dinsdale expects the other major banks will follow Westpac's move.