Major NZ banks to trial regional hubs, as branches continue to close

Banks in New Zealand will trial new 'hubs' in four regions - agreeing to not close regional branches while the pilot takes place. 

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NZ’s biggest banks have agreed to not close any more provincial branches during the trial. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes as banks face criticism about the closure of branches in small towns.

Today, the Prime Minister made the announcement of the "one stop shop of basic banking services". 

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It comes as many small towns face branch closures. Source: 1 NEWS

She said the trial is "smart, innovative and most importantly has small community at heart". 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the new hubs, located in Opunake in South Taranaki, Martinborough in Wairarapa, Stoke in Tasman and Twizel in Canterbury, were "fantastic news for people in smaller towns who have been left feeling cut off as more banking moves online". 

Mr Robertson said it was a "genuine attempt" to continue banking services in the regions.

The hubs will have a 'smart ATM', which will provide Kiwibank, ASB, BNZ, TSB, ANZ and Westpac services, and a support person will be available at the hub. 

"I hope this will provide a solution for both the banks and local communities where it may not be economical for individual banks to maintain a branch," Mr Robertson said. 

When asked if Smart ATMs were glorified ATMs, Ms Ardern said "no, because there are additional services". 

Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones said banking choices had been removed for many people in the regions. 

"Many Kiwis prefer face to face contact over online services to manage their financial matters," he said. 

"I think the participating banks will be surprised by the enthusiasm with which these four communities embrace the regional banking hubs that will open next year and I am optimistic these hubs are the first of many."

The hub trial will last up to 12 months beginning early next year, costing significantly less than a full branch, says the NZ Bankers Association. 

The ATM would have basic transaction services and the hub would provide online banking services. 

The last banks in Opunake and Twizel will turn into a hub - with the association looking for another venue for Martinborough, which does not have any branches, and Stoke, where the last branch is closing in October. 

In November last year, KiwiBank in Stoke announced it would be closing its doors. 

Grey Power Nelson told TVNZ1's Breakfast at the time it was a blow for the community to lose its last banking branch. 

Nelson Grey Power president Christine Tuffnell said they were "devastated".

"Kiwibank is the only bank left in Stoke where you can go and actually talk to people, and a lot of people just don't want to interact with the hole in the wall."