Bank of Queensland today kicks off its plan to make a major push into regional and rural areas, creating 34 new bank branches in less than three years.
While the big banks have abandoned rural Queensland, Bank of Queensland Managing Director David Liddy said Bank of Queensland was to take the opposite strategy and focus on these areas along with the regions and a handful of metropolitan suburbs for growth opportunities.
The new branch network will act as an anchor for residents, businesses and many millions of dollars to stay in rural, regional and suburban economies throughout Queensland.
The first opening of a new branch is today (Monday) in the Brisbane suburb of Carina. Kingaroy is next. Nine new branches will be opened in the next six months.
Regions in which the Bank is now looking to establish a presence include:
- The Darling Downs
- The Burdekin
- The Whitsundays
- Atherton Tablelands
- Central southern Queensland
- The Redlands
- Other Brisbane suburbs
- Other key business districts
Figures from the Finance Sector Union show in Brisbane alone more than 143 bank branches have shut their doors in the past six years. In that period Queensland communities have lost a total of 319 branches after the latest raft of ANZ closures last week.
Carina is a typical community that has been a victim of the bank drain. Three branches in the suburb have closed their doors in recent times. Including nearby suburbs, residents have lost 11 branches since 1996.
Mr Liddy said the ambitious growth strategy, in contrast to the big four banks which were being increasingly run from Sydney and Melbourne, showed Bank of Queensland's confidence in local communities and the robust state of Queensland's economy.
"Our opening of the Carina branch today is just one small step in our plan to double our ATM and branch coverage of the entire state of Queensland, particularly focusing on regional areas which the big banks have moved out of, and where we know there is plenty of business to be done."
"The bigger banks have lost touch with what people want. We're not only being a responsible bank providing a broad range of vital financial services in all sizes of towns and suburbs, but we're totally confident playing our role in the communities will deliver to our bottom line."
"The communities we're looking at all over the state are showing us they want a local bank branch, and we'll deliver. We'll support them in the way the other banks haven't, and we're confident they'll support us with their business."
Federal Member for Griffith Kevin Rudd welcomed the Bank's expansion announcement, and the opening of the new Carina branch this week in his electorate.
He said the major banks seemed oblivious to any sense of responsibility to serve the communities and customers whose loyalty had made them such profitable enterprises.
"The heart of community concern about the banking sector is a widespread belief that massive profits have been made at the expense of and without regard to consumers' welfare. There is an onus on banks to put something back - to demonstrate that they have a sense of corporate citizenship," Mr Rudd said.
"I am pleased to learn of the Bank of Queensland's decision to establish a branch in Carina - where there has been a haemorrhaging of banking services in recent years - and welcome its broader growth strategy."
"As anyone knows who has witnessed the rate of attrition of once-thriving suburban and regional commercial precincts, the loss of banking services is often a decisive factor in their decline."
"The Bank of Queensland's expansion strategy may be viewed as a step toward restoring the 'life-blood' to some of the communities that have suffered with the withdrawal of their banking services."
Carina Gateway Business and Community Association president Lenore Sieber said: "Banks sit at the absolute heart of a suburb or a town. We saw that when the last bank branch closed here 18 months ago and it had a devastating effect on the community.
"A lot of people stopped coming into the area for their shopping. Instead they went where they could get banking services as well. The vast majority of local businesses are rallying behind Bank of Queensland now it's showing this confidence in the region, the exact opposite of what the big banks did in abandoning us, so it's giving the local area a huge boost."
"Having a Bank of Queensland here will help bring people back to our shopping strip and combined with the Brisbane City Council's recent revitalisation programme it's excellent for Carina's future."
Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley said the opening of the Carina Bank of Queensland branch was an important addition to the Brisbane City Council's work to upgrade the local shopping precinct, and other suburbs around Brisbane.
"In partnership with traders, Council recently completed an upgrade of the Carina shopping strip as part of our Suburban Centre Improvement Project," Mr Soorley said. "I'm delighted to see a bank showing faith in the local community like this and supporting our businesses."
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