Wingham to lose St George bragency

LJ Hooker licensee Tim Bale and Brittany Pulvirenti at the soon to be closed St George bragency in Wingham.
LJ Hooker licensee Tim Bale and Brittany Pulvirenti at the soon to be closed St George bragency in Wingham.

THE WINGHAM St George bragency, located at and managed by LJ Hooker Real Estate, will cease operation on Friday March 6, 2015.

LJ Hooker received notice of the closure by letter, which gave only one month's notice.

"There has been no consultation, no prior warning, no respect," said Tim Bale, licensee of LJ Hooker. "But we've looked in the contract, and they do have that right, so there's nothing we can do."

In the meantime, Tim is putting feelers out to the ANZ in hopes of replacing the agency in the office.

The reason St George cited for closing the bragency, which is only one of many rural bragencies being closed, is vague and does not take into account the area's large elderly population.

"St George is moving to update our network in the new digital and regulatory environment. Also, the needs of our customers have evolved and solutions such as digital and mobile banking have radically changed the way our customers interact with us," said Fiona Macrae, head of media relations for the St George Banking Group.

Tim Bale is bemused as to why the bank would want to close the bragency, as LJ Hooker pays the teller's wages and for all office costs, including electricity.

Tim intends to try and retrain teller Leanne Irving with LJ Hooker, so that she will not be left without a job. 

Tim is also worried about elderly customers who prefer face to face banking and are uncomfortable with phone and internet banking. "We've got older people that come in here that still have passbooks," he said.

Customer Stephen Weber is also concerned. "I am full time carer for both my elderly parents and I find this decision by Westpac [St George is part of the Westpac Group] disturbing in that they are taking away services from older Australians for no real purpose," he said.

"The locations of St George and Westpac services in Taree have no close parking, making it difficult for the frail and disabled to easily access these services.

"I find it disturbing that Westpac would be closing services in small rural areas, services which are profitable. I have written to Westpac seeking an explanation of their decision and have yet to receive a response," Stephen added.

"I am sure St George will not be increasing their staffing levels either at the Taree branch, meaning it is even more inconvenient for customers who already have to queue for 15 or more minutes on occasions," he said.

Tim Bale said that St George do not intend to hire more staff at the Taree Branch, although this has been unable to be confirmed with St George.

Whether the ATM is to remain is also unsure. St George say they are trying to negotiate an arrangement for an ATM to be in Wingham, however Tim Bale says that he has not been contacted by them about that as yet.

St George customers will still be able to use the Bank@Post services at the Wingham Post Office and internet banking is available on www.stgeorge.com.au and phone banking by calling 13 33 22.

This story Wingham to lose St George bragency first appeared on Wingham Chronicle.