Westpac to invest AU$40m in 'smart' rural branches

Westpac plans to put in another AU$40 million on top of the AU$23 million it has invested to ensure that more than half of its regional branch network will be upgraded to 'Bank Now' branches by 2020.

Over the next two years, Westpac plans to invest a further AU$40 million to upgrade its regional and rural branches in Australia.

The facilities in the upgraded branches, dubbed Bank Now, will include "smart" ATMs that will enable customers to carry out self-service banking functions such as cash withdrawals and exchange notes for coins. Customers will also be able to check their account balances, transfer money between accounts, and pay bills using Westpac mobile banking in a lounge-style area fitted with dedicated tablets.

Additionally, the bank said customers will be able to browse through Westpac information on dedicated digital touchscreens, and select the information to be emailed to them.

The upgrades will also include the bank's continued rollout of its Connect Now video conferencing service, which is expected to be available in all of its regional and rural branches by the end of 2016. Connect Now has been designed to facilitate meetings and conversations between customers and Westpac specialists based in other locations.

The additional funding will be on top of the AU$23 million the bank has already invested into upgrading its rural and regional branches.

Westpac's general manager of retail banking, Gai McGrath, said that with the extra investment, the bank is on track to see more than half of its regional branch network upgraded by 2020.

In total, over the past two years, the bank has invested over AU$100 million in 80 new Bank Now branches, and plans to transform a third of its 685 branches in Australia by 2017.

The Bank Now branches are part of Westpac's overall "digitisation" program. Last year, Westpac's focus on technology helped it achieve profit of AU$3.6 billion for the first half of the 2014 financial year.

On Wednesday, Westpac announced that its customers are now able to access correspondence from the bank, including statements, through Australia Post's MyPost Digital Mailbox.

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