Branch strategy rolls on despite decline in retail banking

Westpac's Bank of Melbourne is pushing ahead with its branch expansion strategy, despite admitting consumer sentiment is not where it needs to be.

Westpac's Bank of Melbourne is pushing ahead with its branch expansion strategy, despite admitting consumer sentiment is not where it needs to be.

The brand will open its 70th branch in Victoria since its launch in 2011, calling it a milestone on its way to its goal of 100 branches in five years.

The strategy remains at odds with the decline in retail banking and the rise of digital banking that has forced other banks, such as NAB, to reduce their branch footprint. It is also at odds with the bank's own customers.

According to the Bank of Melbourne, only 11 per cent of transactions occur inside its branches and call centres, with 89 per cent online, through mobile phones or ATMs. But chief executive Scott Tanner said the bank would continue with the strategy as long as it got a return on the investment.

"We would always want a higher growth market, but we are still growing at the rate that we want to grow, so we're feeling very pleased on the return we're getting," he said. "Each of our branches that we've built since we launched has produced good growth in balance and good growth in customers. We're going to keep doing it because we think that's what Victorians want."

Mr Tanner admitted the strategy was announced in a healthier time for retail banking, but said his outlook for the sector was positive.

"I'm pretty positive in terms of what's happening. Victoria is travelling very well when you look at deposit growth," he said.

The bank has received around 70,000 new customers since launching in July 2011. It plans to open five more branches by the end of the year.

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