One of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, ANZ, is stopping allowing deposits and withdrawals from some of its Australian branches. The move is an attempt to push users towards ATMs and deposit machines. The decision has drawn criticism from the likes of Patricia Sparrow, CEO of the Council on Aging. According to Sparrow, the shift may have a disproportionately negative impact on older individuals because they are less technologically savvy. Others have argued that it would increase fiat users’ vulnerability to technical issues.
The move has also sparked new concerns about attempts to replace cash with CBDCs (central bank digital currency). Australia is currently running a CBDC pilot program, with an update in the mid 2023. One effect the RBA noted was that a CBDC could replace the Australian dollar. The potential impact on personal freedom and privacy of CBDCs replacing currency is an important additional concern. According to an ANZ spokeswoman, the affected branches are located in metropolitan areas close to ATMs and deposit machines.
Why is Australian bank ANZ shutting down withdrawals and deposits?
The shift is happening as Australia moves increasingly towards a cashless society. According to a March 16 bulletin from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the share of cash retail payments fell from 59% in 2007 to just 27% in 2019.
The decision was further accelerated by the decline of more than 50% in-branch transactions over the past four years. The Australian RBA also noted that a significant number of merchants have expressed the need to discourage cash payments in the future.
The RBA further stated that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the trend towards a cashless society. The RBA also noted a nationwide decline in the number of bank branches and ATMs. Since 2017, the number of bank branches has decreased by 30% and the number of ATMs by 25% since 2016.