As part of the support we are providing to customers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we are moving some of our branch staff to our Australian-based call centres and online teams to help meet the demand from people seeking financial assistance.
Since the pandemic was declared in early March, we have received more than one million calls and online requests for help. In particular, calls to our hardship line have increased by 800 per cent compared to the period before the pandemic.
Over the same period, visits by customers to bank branches have fallen more than 50 per cent in some branches as people follow social distancing and lockdown requirements. Transaction volumes in branch have dropped significantly as a result while there has been a large increase in customers doing their banking online through NetBank and the CommBank app.
As a result we are stepping up our support for customers by planning to reassign from Thursday 7 May about 500 branch staff to our call centres and online operations. This means we will temporarily close a number of branches across the country, primarily in metro areas. To minimise inconvenience for branch customers, the vast majority of the temporary closures will occur at branches where another branch is operating normally within 5 kilometres. Our ATMs at temporarily-closed branches will continue to operate as normal. Customers will also be able to use our Bank@Post service at Australia Post offices to do day-to-day transactional banking.