Suncorp closing branches in Charleville, Longreach

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
Updated November 28 2021 - 10:05pm, first published 10:00pm
The Suncorp branch in Charleville is set to close in February next year.

News that Charleville's Suncorp bank branch will shut its doors in February next year has been called hasty.

Suncorp's executive general manager for consumer distribution, Chris Fleming has confirmed that the bank is closing down in the south west town from February 11, 2022, "as a result of immediate team changes".

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Longreach Regional Council mayor Tony Rayner has also been told that counter service and business banking will no longer be available at the Suncorp branch in Longreach from February, while the ATM will remain there, along with agri-banking services.

According to Mr Fleming, team changes mean it's unsustainable for the bank to continue to operate the Charleville branch.

"In making this decision we have also taken into consideration the significant reduction in over-the-counter transactions and the major shift towards alternate banking options," he said.

The branch has been operating at reduced hours since the pandemic began.

According to the Member for Warrego, Ann Leahy, the regional banking taskforce set up by the federal government to assess the impact of bank branch closures on regional communities may have come up with solutions for the bank that would allow the branch to remain open.

"The taskforce is looking at the different delivery modes for banking services," she said.

"For Suncorp to announce this closure before the outcomes is hasty and unfortunate.

"It is disappointing Suncorp has chosen closure rather than working with the community to ascertain if there is a different banking model that can deliver the services both the bank provides and community needs."

She said it was surprising, given the region was blooming off the back of high commodity prices, a tourism boom, 60 new jobs coming online at the Western Meat Exporters abattoir

As far as staffing needs went, Ms Leahy said community leaders may have been able to find solutions, if only they had been consulted.

In her letter to Suncorp she invited senior decision makers to meet with the Murweh Shire Council and the community in the near future.

Suncorp group CEO Steve Johnston replied that Mr Fleming and CEO Suncorp Bank Clive van Horen were arranging a meeting with the council to discuss the branch and alternate banking options for the community.

Mr Fleming said their priority now was to ensure customers understood the local, contact centre and digital alternatives available to them, to complete their banking.

"We understand these changes may be an adjustment for some, and our branch team will continue to be available to assist with the transition and discuss the best alternate options that suit their banking needs," he said.

Murweh mayor Shaun 'Zoro' Radnedge heard of the closure not as mayor but as a bank customer, when he received an email from the bank.

"I had a very animated meeting on the phone the following day - that was very ordinary," he said.

Cr Radnedge described the news as a blow for the community, and for the staff affected, and said he'd had a number of calls from people in the community regarding the closure.

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"I will keep having conversations with Suncorp and suggest concerned customers do the same with head office," he said. "As a customer, I'll be looking long and hard at what I do with my insurance policies and bank accounts there."

Charleville is still serviced by Commonwealth and NAB banks.

Loss at Longreach

Longreach mayor Tony Rayner said his community was fortunate to still have Westpac, NAB and Commonwealth bank branches open, in the wake of the news of the Suncorp counter service closure there.

"I was advised of this a week ago," he said.

"Losing any service is not good for a regional community.

"There are concerns around how local Suncorp clients will access small change and so on."

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He acknowledged that the local Post Office was the sub-agent for Suncorp in Longreach, and said clients would likely move to larger banks that were providing local services.

Ms Leahy strongly encouraged every community and individual who is being or has been impacted by bank closures to make a submission to the Regional Banking Taskforce.

"I just reiterate to all banks, many still use that old fashioned item called cash and we need financial institutions to use that," she said.

The following bank closures have taken place in south west Queensland:

  • Tara - NAB
  • Jandowae, Chinchilla - ANZ
  • Dirranbandi, Tara, Miles, Chinchilla, Meandarra, Roma - Heritage
  • Miles - Suncorp and Bank of Queensland
  • Surat and Tambo - NAB
  • Charleville - Westpac

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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