Key Points:

ANZ Bank has today called for voluntary redundancies among its branch staff.

The bank's call has sparked fears amongst the union that the ANZ brand could be sold off or amalgamated.

This morning, at a series of 8.30 meetings, the bank announced a review of the branch network with a view to reducing staff numbers; a freeze on recruitment which will lead to immediate staff reductions through attrition; a reduction in the use of casual staff to cover absences; and a tightening up of overtime being worked.

It also asked front line staff to consider voluntary redundancy.

In explaining the reasons behind the move, documents obtained by detail how over the counter transactions have fallen 23 per cent to around 3 million per month since 2003 because of simpler processes, fewer forms, more use of call centres and more use of Internet banking. However, the bank said, branch staff numbers had been stuck at around 1,590, the documents show.

The redundancy offers have to be made by October 8 and confirmations are scheduled for October 27.

A timeline provided in documents to staff shows ANZ expects to complete the review by early November with those taking redundancy leaving the company by November 28. The documents do not indicate the potential level or cost of redundancies, according to

Back in April the bank announced that 400 positions would be moving to India but that there would not be any redundancies.

Finsec is the union that represents ANZ staff. Campaigns director Andrew Campbell said the bank has now gone back on its word.

"Today's announcement shows that to be a lie," Campbell said.

He said ever since the merger of ANZ and National, there has been concern about the future of both banks continuing, he said.

"Bear in mind that there has been no announcement for National Bank but a major diminishment in the ANZ's brand in terms of their retail and frontline which we're going to be opposing," he said.

Finsec represents 1400 of the 2400 staff affected by this call, Campbell said.

Wayne Besant, managing director of ANZ retail banking, has just issued a statement on the plan.

"Today we announced to staff in our ANZ branches that we will be conducting a review of customer activity within our branches. Our goal is to align our service model with customer demand," he said.

"The business of retail banking is changing. Customers are utilising and adopting alternative and more convenient ways to conduct their banking transactions, such as over the internet or by phone. As a result - and in line with general industry trends - we're seeing a continued decline in the volume of over-the-counter transactions in our branches."

Branches were, and always would be, a very important channel for ANZ, enabling face-face-contact with customers, said Besant.

"Maintaining excellent customer service will always be our priority."

Expressions of interest for voluntary redundancy was one option that the bank would "explore with some staff in specific areas" of the network.