Westpac hastens ATM cull

George Lekakis Financial institutions / Big five & fintech

Westpac is accelerating the retirement of automatic teller machines across Australia as more customers migrate to cashless ways of paying.

Chief executive Brian Hartzer revealed at the group’s full year profit announcement on Monday that 443 ATMs had been cut from its network in the 12 months to the end of September.

The disclosure indicates that Westpac is hastening the rationalisation of its ATM capability after all banks removed user access fees in 2017.

Abolition of fees has handed banks a big incentive to reduce their fleets because there is no longer an effective way of retrieving operating costs.

Official industry data leaked to Banking Day last month showed that Westpac withdrew machines at 266 locations in Australia during the 12 months to the end of June.

But the latest data revealed by Hartzer suggests that the bank cranked up the network reduction program in the September quarter.

Westpac is believed to be supporting an industry proposal for banks to pool their ATM capabilities into a utility business that would service all Australian bank users under a unified brand.

However, negotiations between the major banks to establish the new business broke down last month when CBA walked out of a meeting held at the Grace Hotel in Sydney.

CBA, which operates the largest bank-owned ATM network still sees strategic marketing value in operating a proprietary fleet.

The major banks and CUSCAL have taken large writedowns on their ATM assets in the last year because of the industry’s decision to remove access fees.