The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority yesterday published its voluminous annual review of the “points of presence” of deposit taking entities in Australia, which attempts to locate every branch, agency, ATM and Eftpos machine in Australia.

The political origin of this exercise – which is now much less relevant than formerly – was the long running complaint over banks quitting the bush.

For three or four years now, however, enough banks have adopted programs of branch openings, along with innovation in service delivery and the escalating use of internet banking, to make those complaints seem pretty dated.

Still, the federal government gave APRA a mandate to find and count all the bank branches.

As at 2006, APRA said there were 5147 bank branches, up 187 or 4% over the year.

Building societies and credit unions have 1249 branches, up one per cent over the year. Building societies in fact opened 25 branches, while credit unions – a sector subject to ongoing consolidation – shut 11 branches, most of them in suburban locations.

There were 13 more bank branches classified as remote or very remote found in 2006 then in 2005, which would mostly be due to the program of community bank branch openings by Bendigo Bank.

Almost all the new bank branches are in what APRA terms accessible localities, that is, in suburbs and towns where banks see demand and profit.

Peter Fray

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