Dismissing forecasts of the bank branch's imminent demise, Westpac has committed A$240 million to a major, tech-heavy overhaul designed to bring its network into the 21st century.
The 'Bank Now' project will see the money used to refurbish a third of the retail and business banking network of 680 branches over the next three years. The rest will be updated as existing property leases expire.
The Aussie bank argues that the increasing use of online and mobile channels for transactional services has not made branches obsolete but has changed what customers expect from them.
"Some commentators have predicted the death of the branch in the digital world but nothing could be further from the truth. As our new branches show, not only are we confident about the future of branches we also know this is exactly the type of face-to-face service that our small business and personal customers are asking for," says Jason Yetton, group executive, retail and business banking, Westpac.
Traditional screens and counters that separate customers from staff are being scrapped in favour of an open plan lay-out combining a mix of self-service banking options and tailored advice and support from specialist banking staff.
While customers will have access 24/7 to 'smart' ATMs in foyers, for more complex transactions they will stand next to personal bankers who will undertake their business on Westpac's new computerised teller system.
At the centre of the new-look branch is a lounge-style area where customers can check their account balances, transfer money between accounts and pay bills using Westpac's iPad app on dedicated tablets. Touchscreens will offer access to information that users can e-mail to save on paper.
The offices also have more private areas and provide video conferencing capabilities for meetings and conversations with Westpac's specialist teams of advisers, planners and financial experts based in other locations.