ASB is to permanently close nine branches and reduce the hours of 25 others to three days a week as it shifts its focus to helping customers online and over the phone.

The bank will retain all its branch staff and will hire more people to help fill more than 150 new roles to provide specialist guidance and advice to customers.

Craig Sims, general manager retail banking at the ASB, said changes were being made as a result of the ongoing move to digital banking as well as growth in customers using its digital channels during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"Kiwis' expectations of their bank are changing. In the past five years for example, at ASB we've seen a 42 per cent decline in branch transactions, and now 85 per cent of our personal customers prefer the convenience of our online and mobile services. Add to that, since lockdown in March around 13,500 customers have used our digital channels for the first time to do their banking and they're continuing to do so."

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The nine branches closing permanently are Auckland Hospital branch, Parnell, Ellerslie, Mt Albert, Ronwood Avenue, Waikato Uni, Papamoa, Barrington and Mosgiel.

These branches have been shut since the March 26 lockdown.

From August 3 25 other branches will permanently move to opening three days a week on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 9am to 4.30pm.

Sims said the branches that were closing had very low customer numbers.

"Some, for example, serve only 900 customers a year so that's only two to three a day. There is also a branch nearby for customers to use. Our decision is motivated by a desire to provide a better overall personal experience for customers and our people. "

"Our team is an important part of this change and no jobs will be lost as a result of these changes. Team members will have the opportunity to move to another branch or other roles within ASB, supported by training to provide more specialised guidance and advice," Sims said.

It will have a total of 109 branches across the country.

Sims said staff of those branches with reduced hours would work in the branch three days a week and would continue working the other two days responding to customers.

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Craig Sims, ASB retail banking executive general manager. Photo / Supplied
Craig Sims, ASB retail banking executive general manager. Photo / Supplied

The bank has received flak on social media for the slow re-opening of its branches since the Covid-19 alert level was dropped down.

Customers in many areas including Birkenhead, Dargaville, Lincoln, Onehunga and Mangere Bridge have vented their frustrations about their local ASB staying shut.

Others wanted to know if opening for reduced hours between 10am and 2pm would be extended, saying it was highly inconvenient to be offered only four hours a day.

"I would like an answer about Birkenhead," one said.

Another wrote: "When's the ASB in Mangere Bridge and Onehunga going to open please?"

Others complained about fewer ATMs, asked when Howick would reopen and said it was a struggle to have lost Pakuranga and now a struggle to get to Botany or Sylvia Park.

Sims today acknowledged the branch closures may be disappointing for some users.

But he said the bank would be calling customers who use an impacted branch and providing support to help them through the transition.

An 0800-priority phone line set up during Covid-19 for over 65s would remain in place and a priority hour of between 9am and 10am would continue in all branches on the weekdays they were open.

Bank branch closures have come under fire in recent years from communities that have felt deserted by the major banks despite the banks pulling in billion dollar profits.

Last September the Government reached an agreement with six major banks - Kiwibank, BNZ, TSB, ANZ, ASB and Westpac to trial regional banking hubs. In exchange the banks promised not to close any branches outside of the main centres while the trial was under way.

The first trial hub was due to open this year but was delayed by Covid-19. The hubs are planned for Martinborough, Opunake, Stoke and Twizel.

An ASB spokeswoman said its branch closures were in main cities only.