THERE is a boom happening across rural Australia, with high commodity prices and back-to-back good seasons, but you wouldn't recognise it driving through many country towns when you look at the banks.
Many have closed. A total of 400 branches, in fact, in just the past two years alone.
And how is it that we're seeing the biggest exodus of people from cities to rural and regional areas at the same time as we're seeing all the banks leave?
These closures come at a cost to local residents, create a loss in local trade, remove incentives to save, reduce the ability to shop around for the best fees and interest rates and access to advice and also creates a perception that the community is not a good place to invest.
Access to your own money should be one of those basic, essential services that people can expect, except clearly, they can't.
These closures also mean jobs lost from those communities.
The job loss figure in particular is quite significant, with an estimated 3000 jobs lost lost across those 400 branches, according to the Finance Sector Union.
So with the horse well and truly bolted, where to now?
Not everybody is doing internet banking. Some occasions still call for a face-to-face meeting and the internet in many areas also isn't good enough to encourage too much online business activity.
The concept suggested by the union that banking hubs could be created could address some of the issues around access to services and support, as well as reducing the total number of jobs lost - after all, where is the duty of care to the banks' employees and also the banks' contribution to communities that have otherwise supported them?
And how much has the COVID pandemic contributed to the reported deacreases in foot traffic, as much as a 68 per cent decline in the past five years, according to the Australian Banking Association, and how much of this decline was due to a genuine decline in the need for banking services as opposed to the effects of COVID?
Some reports also suggest this is hampering some communities in their ability to capture city migtration as the banks join the list of services, like schools and health care, that potential new residents generally consider essential.
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