Mike Baird, Chief Customer Officer, Consumer Banking, was in Lismore to talk at a town hall meeting to talk to stakeholders about regional banking.
Mike Baird, Chief Customer Officer, Consumer Banking, was in Lismore to talk at a town hall meeting to talk to stakeholders about regional banking. Sophie Moeller

NAB makes regional deposit

THE former premier of NSW, Mike Baird, was in Lismore last week as part of National Australia Bank's tour of regional Australia to find out how it can serve the needs of its customers in country Australia.

The town hall meeting at City Hall was the 10th community discussion since the campaign began in Wagga Wagga in July with three more planned before the end of the month.

The session was moderated by Thomas George MP, who took questions from the floor about how the bank could better serve the needs of farmers and businesses in regional areas in a changing technological era.

In addressing issues raised from the room, Mr Baird acknowledged that banking in rural communities was based on relationships.

"It is people, it is relationships. When Jim says he is going to do something, he does it. And it is the same with your bank. It is built on relationships and we need to get back to that,” he said.

Issues raised in the room ranged from the fear of branch closures in remote towns, digital account reconciliation seven days a week, the high turnover of bank managers in regional branches and the inability for branches to provide local businesses with short term funds.

One farmer in the room said he had recently travelled two and a half hours to Beaudesert during the week to find the branch was closed for lunch, and then had to drive home again. He said the local branch had no power to enact his banking needs. A decision to discharge a mortgage had to go to Melbourne and took five months to process.

Another local businessman from Kyogle was reassured by executive general manager retail, Krissie Jones, who said the closure of the branch in Woodburn would not be replicated in Kyogle.

Regional manager from the NSW Chamber of Commerce, Jane Laverty, told the room the NAB was "engaging with a passionate, courageous and very proud community which was demonstrated in the past 18 months by having come through a major weather event”.

The bank had to "match that passion with empathy and agility” to meet the region's needs and bring the next generation of customers on board. The Northern Rivers had one of the highest numbers of young entrepreneurs in the country who needed the banks to partner with them in taking on risk, she said.

Chief Technology and Operations Officer, Patrick Wright, said the bank was in the process of streamlinng its digital processing of transactions.

"We currently have a team of people simplifying the system so decisions can be made in a matter of minutes, not days,weeks or months,” he said.

"Some people wanted better digital systems and some people ... don't just want to be a number on a screen. We believe both are important.”

He said it would be a year before daily reconciliations on transaction could be offered by the bank as it involved "retooling” 25 000 different parts of their computer system.

"But it is something we are working on,” said Mr Wright.

NAB's retail banking business including more than 700 branches, 7000 bankers, broker partnerships, direct banking and the digital bank UBank.