Citi’s Australian bank branches go cashless
November 15 2016
Citi is removing cash from its Australian bank branches,
because it is no longer worth offering a service that is used by less than one in twenty customers.
As consumers embrace digital banking and the role of cash dwindles,
the US bank said its six Australian retail branches would remove cash handling services,
because of falling demand from customers who instead manage their money digitally.
Citi’s six branches in Australia will no longer hold cash. Photo: Tanya Lake
While Citi is a small force in domestic retail banking,
the move is a sign of how banks are being forced to reinvent branches in the face of a boom
in digital transactions on mobile and contactless payments.
It came as UBS analysts even floated the idea of phasing out high-value Australian bank notes altogether,
a change it said would lower crime, boost tax collections and strengthen the banks’ deposit holdings.
Citi’s head of retail banking Janine Copelin said less than 4 per cent of the bank’s
customers had made cash transactions through a branch in the last year.
“This move to cashless branches reflects Citi’s commitment to digital banking
and we are investing in the channels our customers prefer to use,” she said.
“There is no plan to close our branches. While the number of customers visiting our branches to access cash handling
services has fallen, the branch network remains an important component of how we serve our high-net worth customers.”
Customers could still make cash deposits through Australia Post’s network, she said, while the bank also allows deposits at
National Australia Bank branches for deposit and mortgage customers.
Citi said more than 95 per cent of its transactions occur outside branches.
Reserve Bank data also confirms the decline in cash use.
Cash was used in 78 per cent of payments worth less than $10 in 2013,
the latest year for which figures are available, down from 95 per cent in 2007.
Another indication of declining cash use is the fall in the number of ATM transactions,
which fell by 6.6 per cent last financial year.
Even though cash is being used less for payments, however, the total value of $100 bank notes on issue continues to climb.
A separate report from UBS analyst Jontahan Mott this week said there were three times as many Australian $100 notes
on issue as there were $5 notes. After India last week said it would take the highest value notes out of circulation,
Mr Mott said removing large denomination notes would be “good for the economy and good for the banks.”
Economic benefits would include a reduction in crime,
higher tax revenue from fewer cash transactions and lower rates of welfare fraud, he said.
He estimated phasing out $100 bills would raise household deposits by 4 per cent if they were put into bank deposits.
While Citi is believed to be the first bank in Australia to remove cash from its branches,
other lenders have transformed branches in other ways.
ANZ, for instance, opened its first branch without tellers in Bondi this year.
Instead, the branch is staffed by other bank workers who specialise in areas such as
home lending, or helping customers with digital banking.