Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) - CEO, Matt Comyn
CEO, Matt Comyn
Image sourced: Commonwealth Bank
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  • Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) will temporarily bench 114 of its branches to redirect staff
  • COVID-19 has seen the bank take fewer requests in person, with more opting to go online or use the phone
  • Roughly 500 staff members will be used to assist online, or work at call centres — effective immediately
  • At this stage, the closure will run for six months, with the bank making regular decisions based on the pandemic situation
  • Shares in Commonwealth opened 1.4 per cent higher on Friday, trading for $60.69 per share

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has temporarily closed 114 of its branches to redirect manpower during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the closure, company management will utilise the staff in other areas, while also saving costs at branches that have seen a drop in patronage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen more people opt for online banking or over the phone payments as they run financial errands. As a result, Commonwealth Bank has plans to redeploy roughly 500 staff to call centres and online assistance.

“Since the pandemic was declared in early March, we have received more than one million calls and online requests for help,” a Commonwealth Bank spokesperson said on Thursday.

“In particular, calls to our hardship line have increased by 800 per cent compared to the period before the pandemic,” they continued. “Over the same period, visits by customers to bank branches have fallen more than 50 per cent in some branches as people follow social distancing and lockdown requirements.”

This significant slump in physical visits has meant fewer transactions are done face-to-face, while many more take place online.

Commonwealth’s choice to reassign their staff is effective immediately from May 7.

Closures will take place across the nation, with metro areas will see the most doors shut.

These branches will remain temporarily closed for up to six months, with the situation reviewed regularly.

Government decisions on social distancing and other COVID-19 practices will influence ongoing decisions, Commonwealth added.

Commonwealth isn’t the only bank to make branch closures. National Australia Bank has carried out a similar action plan for 70 of its branches. Westpac and ANZ have both closed roughly 90 branches.

Commonwealth’s decision to close certain branches means those who are determined to do their banking in person will have to travel.

Tasmanian Member of Parliament, Gavin Pearce, criticised Commonwealth’s decision which may see a number of customers congregate at specific locations.

“It demonstrates a lack of judgement and understanding of the issues faced by the North-West region in its battle against COVID-19,” he said.

“Currently, the Coast is working hard to contain the coronavirus and the message given by all levels of Government is to stay at home and in your local community unless it is absolutely essential for you to leave,” Gavin admonished. “The Commonwealth Bank’s decision to force local Penguin residents to Ulverstone or Burnie to undertake their banking flies in the face of this directive.”

Despite the closures, ATMs located at Commonwealth branches will remain operable.

Shares in Commonwealth opened 1.4 per cent higher on Friday, trading for $60.69 per share at 10:47 am AEST.

CBA by the numbers
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