Transcript - radio interview - 2GB The Ben Fordham Breakfast Show
BEN FORDHAM, HOST: Now the big banks are under fire. They're shutting branches and ATMs at a record pace. In the last financial year, more than 300 branches have closed across Australia. And there's now a bit of news around about this today. And I'm going to bring in Kristy McBain, who's the Federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Kristy McBain, good morning to you.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Ben.
FORDHAM: You've got some news out on this today. You are talking about the number of people out there who are turning to customer-owned banks because they seem to be thriving. These are customer-owned or mutual banks that now account for more than one in five regional branches. They're actually staying open, they're actually servicing the community while the big banks are shutting up shop.
MCBAIN: What we're seeing is customer-owned banking actually open up branches across the regions instead of closing them. It's important that regional people have access to financial services, both from a banking and business point of view, but also from a well-being point of view, because our demographic means that some of those customers aren't able to get to the online banking services like the rest of us.
FORDHAM: In the David and Goliath battle between these community banks, customer-owned banks, mutual banks and the big banks, people are going with the little guys.
MCBAIN: We've seen 720 branches available through regional Australia. The employment sector for customer-owned banking grew by 4.4 per cent in the last financial year alone. We've got over 11,000 people working in those customer-owned banks. On Tuesday this week I was in Braidwood, where there is a customer-owned bank. It's been running for 20 years, and the manager said they've put two and a half million dollars back into that community over that time through grants and sponsorships. They are working with the community to support them, and the community obviously gets behind them and banks with them.
FORDHAM: After the Royal Commission into Financial Services, we were told that they were going to be better, the big banks were going to be better, but this is one where they just choose the cash over the customer.
MCBAIN: We know that there's market forces at play for a lot of the big banks. It's just extremely disappointing that it's always the regional banks that are the first to close. Over the last five years, regional Australia in bank operations have declined about 29 per cent. Many people are putting their money where their community is and moving to customer-owned banking.
FORDHAM: I was going to ask you, what's your message for the big banks, but I'm not sure they'll be listening to you.
MCBAIN: My message loud and clear is service us or we will shift our money. At the moment, customer-owned banking seems relatively small, at about $158 billion worth of assets compared to a lot more in the major banks. But regional Australians want service as well. In the last six months, there's been four branches alone closed across Eden-Monaro, and it's extremely disappointing for all of those local people and local businesses.
FORDHAM: All right, well, even though we don't get too far with the major banks on these issues, keep on using your voice and we appreciate your time.
MCBAIN: Thanks Ben.
BEN FORDHAM: Kristy McBain, the Federal Minister for Regional Development and Local Government. So there's a bit of a roundtable being conducted today. The Customer Owned Banking Association has released a report into regional banking and Kristy McBain is part of that. What they're showing is that a lot of people are turning to them and shifting away from the big banks because the big banks are not doing what they're supposed to be doing, and that is providing a service, a face-to-face service with their customers.