Banks in New Zealand plan to trial banking 'hubs' in regions hit by branch closures and have agreed not to close any branches during the trial.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson described it on Monday as "fantastic", saying it would help people in smaller towns left reeling from being cut off as banking moves online.
"I hope this will provide a solution for both the banks and local communities where it may not be economical for individual banks to maintain a branch," Robertson said.
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"I'd like to thank the banks and the Bankers' Association (NZBA) for working with the Government on this initiative which will be implemented in early 2020."
Robertson said NZBA is developing a range of criteria to measure the success of the trial, including transaction volume, transaction type, and customer satisfaction.
Location of the hubs:
- Opunake, south Taranaki
- Martinborough, Wairarapa
- Stoke, Tasman
- Twizel, Canterbury
The participating banks are Kiwibank, ASB, BNZ, TSB, Westpac and ANZ. Those banks will share the operating costs of the hubs.
The hubs will provide basic transaction services during the 12 month trial, such as cash withdrawals, deposits and account transfers.
The hubs will have a multi-branded Smart ATM and online banking facility, along with a support person to provide guidance and assistance.
While the banks have agreed not to close any branches outside of main centres during the trial, that excludes co-located Kiwibank-NZ Post premises.
Two of the hubs - Opunake and Twizel - will be based in towns with just one bank left, whose branch will be turned into a hub.
Martinborough does not have existing branch infrastructure and Stoke's last bank will close in October. Therefore, NZBA will look to partner with local government or organisations to establish a venue, likely in a community centre.
Around 100 people protested ANZ's departure from Martinborough last year leaving the Wairarapa town without a bank from October 19.
The bank said at the time 80 percent of its customers in the town hadn't used the branch that year, and in-person transactions had been on the decline.
Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones said the latest announcement shows how the Government is committed to supporting the regions.
"Whānau, personal and business finances require close contact with a bank and many Kiwis prefer face to face contact over online services to manage their financial matters," the minister said.
"I think the participating banks will be surprised by the enthusiasm with which these four communities embrace the regional banking hubs that will open next year and I am optimistic these hubs are the first of many."