The recent banking Royal Commission has generated significant interest in the Beecroft Cheltenham area in more ways than one. In September I received a personal letter, no doubt like other Commonwealth Bank account holders, from the Bank’s CEO Mat Comyn stating that the Bank is sorry for neglecting its customers and it has now amended its ways and would improve customer service.
Then, within days, Commonwealth Bank customers at Beecroft were informed that the local branch, the last bank in Beecroft and servicing both suburbs, would close mid- October. A significant event because over the past twenty five years the local community of Beecroft and Cheltenham has seen two other banks close in Beecroft. I find the timing of the two announcements so hypocritical and, in my opinion, accurately sums up the banking industry’s real attitude to its customers. But wait, in the letter regarding the closure of the Beecroft branch, we are assured by the Commonwealth Bank that we can bank at nearby Epping and Pennant Hills. Or we will be able to do all our banking at Beecroft post office. Talking to the post office manager, I get a completely different story. The local post office does not have the facilities or functionalities to handle the daily transactions local residents and shopkeepers require from a bank. So it looks like a 30 minute trip to an adjoining suburb. I felt so strongly about this matter that I wrote to the CEO Matt Comyn.
One can argue I should be criticising the banking industry in general. The Commonwealth Bank just happened to be the last bank to close in Beecroft. Perhaps I should be thanking them for remaining open as long as they have! I acknowledge that we are experiencing a gradual change in how we manage our financial affairs. Many older residents struggle with change. It’s human nature. But all I requested from Mr Comyn was for the Commonwealth Bank to delay the closure of the last bank in Beecroft.
The real loser in the long term is Beecroft shopping centre. Many shopkeepers of Beecroft are still struggling to recover after the lengthy disruption caused when the former Module shops was demolished to make way for the new Beecroft Place shops with its units above. The closure of the last bank in Beecroft, such a vital service for the shopkeepers who deal with cash every day, has simply made it so much harder for the shopping centre to recover. Beecroft shops like other small shopping centres need essential services, like banks, for it to survive. The shopping pattern in Beecroft has dramatically altered since Beecroft Place has opened with a number of small shops closing. People tend to use Woolworths now, with its convenient undercover car parking, as a one destination shopping exercise. As a consequence, other parts of the Beecroft shopping complex are struggling now with less pedestrians walking around the streets.
As a matter of interest, at the time of preparing this article, I haven’t received a reply from Mat Comyn. One would think that if a CEO is prepared to write to all its customers about how the Bank is changing its culture, then the company would have additional resources in place to handle the expected feedback. The delay in replying reflects poorly on the intent of the Commonwealth Bank to reform its ways.
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