McArdle takes up the fight for hinterland Suncorp branch

MARK McArdle has called out the Suncorp Bank for their plans to close the Beerwah branch without consulting their loyal customer base.

The Member for Caloundra met with a Suncorp representative on September 23, after being contacted by several hinterland residents who were distressed they would lose their branch on October 14.

Suncorp sent out a letter to its customers on September 14, stating that they could drive to Caloundra and Nambour branches or withdraw money from Suncorp ATMs in Maleny, Pelican Waters and Nambour.

The letter also highlighted a Bank@Post service, which allows customers to make deposits and withdrawals, check their account balance and pay their bills at an Australia Post office free of charge.

But Mr McArdle said it was not enough.

"I think it is ridiculous for them to be passing their obligation onto a third party to deal with their clients,” he said.

"Where's the sense of loyalty to their clients? It's like they are saying, 'We don't want your business,' and what sort of business treats their clients like that?”

"(The letter) provided no reasons as to why it was happening, only directing them to other services.”

Mr McArdle said he had been contacted by older people in Beerwah who did not have, nor did they wish to have, access to a computer or modern technology for many reasons.

"They are being ignored and neglected,” he said.

"These are the same clients that Suncorp reply upon to generate good will. That is now thrown out the window.

"Indeed business operators will also be affected. They could hold multiple accounts with Suncorp covering their business and homes. What is to happen to them? They are now required to transfer their business operations to someone else.”

Mr McArdle said the only positive outcome from his meeting with a Suncorp representative last week was the assurance that they would investigate an ATM for Beerwah.

READ: Concerns as bank announces hinterland branch closure.

"During the conversation, I was told that Suncorp 'tried to do the right thing by its customers' and 'the customer is very important to us' but they could not explain that if that was the case, why they had taken no steps to engage with their customers before closing Beerwah,” Mr McArdle said.

"In fact, I said their actions and their words were 'irreconcilable' to which I was again given the same platitudes.

"The conversation I felt was more like Suncorp just going through the motions, and when I asked about the emotional impact the closure would have, there was nothing by way of an explanation.

"Similarly, they could not explain to me why public consultation in Beerwah had not taken place, simply referring to the fact that they are look at a 'broader distribution' strategy and how they would provide 'value' to customers.

"If value means closing down branches, disappointing clients and turning their backs on clients' loyalty Suncorp and I differ as to the definition of the word 'value'.”

A Suncorp Bank spokesperson said the decision was "not taken lightly”.

"Following a review of the region, our data shows that customer behaviour has changed. They are relying more on mobile and online banking for their everyday banking,” the spokesperson said.

"A wide range of factors were taken into account, including store usage and the alternative ways our customers can bank with us.

"Face to face transactional services, including deposits and withdrawals, will continue to be available to Suncorp customers in Beerwah through Bank@Post at Australia Post, and our full service stores in Maleny, Nambour, and Caloundra.

"Our priority is to ensure that all of our customers, especially those more reliant on face-to-face services, understand the alternative ways of accessing their banking with us in their local area, and to respond to any questions or concerns they may have.”

The spokesperson said a physical footprint would remain a "cornerstone” of the bank's business strategy and the region continued to be a key market.

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