Bank closing four branches

2017-04-12 06:00

First National Bank (FNB) is set to close branches in four towns in the Free State by the end of April.

The branches are in ­Warden, Winburg, Excelsior and Rouxville.

Agriculture has been the main driver of the economy of these towns, but the economy of these towns has not been thriving due to severe drought.

Adding to these towns’ predicament is the inability of the municipalities to improve the environment to lure potential investors and retain the ones that have been operating.

FNB, one of South Africa’s big four banks, has given a reduction in banking activity as one of the chief reasons for the decision to shut down the branches in these towns. The reduction in banking activity is largely due to South Africa’s high rate of unemployment as a result of the failure to stimulate economic growth to create jobs.

“FNB regularly reviews the viability and sustainability of branches in line with its business strategy. The bank has taken the decision to close the branches in the Free State due to a reduction in banking activity,” says Lee-Anne Van Zyl, chief executive officer of FNB Points of Presence.

She says the Automated Deposit Tellers (ADTs) which allow customers to make cash deposits and withdrawals at a more cost-effective rate than in-branch, will remain in the impacted areas.

To help ensure clients are familiar with the use of the technology banking system, Van Zyl says a bank con­sultant will remain on site for a month to assist customers with transacting via the ADT.

“We encourage customers to also make use of our digital channels such as the Banking App or Online Banking for most transactions they ­currently conduct in-branch.”

Apparently the low population in the respective towns is yet another factor for the bank to close branches. According to Statistics South Africa’s Census 2011, the population in the four towns is below 20 000. Winburg has a population of 14 074, Warden has 10 977, Rouxville 7 310 and Excelsior 6 500.

Displeased by the bank’s decision to disinvest in ­Warden and Rouxville, the communities and organisations in the respective towns have embarked on protest marches.

The Warden protest march was a week ago and was followed by that of Rouxville on Tuesday (11/04). The Rouxville Development Agency led the protest against the closure of the branch in this town that is at the centre of the wool-producing area of the Transgariep and is a gateway to the Eastern Cape.

Mthetho Lalu, spokesperson of the Rouxville agency, says the closing of the branch will be devastating to the com­munity.

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