Westpac’s landmark former Bondi Beach branch has hit the market, with selling agents saying the rare beachside landholding will make it one of the auctions to watch in 2021.
The prime 512-square-metre site was home to the bank for 40 years and is now being sold by Colliers International on behalf of a Melbourne family who’ve decided to capitalise on the demand for considerable assets neighbouring the iconic beach strip.
“The property so far has received incredible interest – as you’d expect from anything in Bondi, in particular over the past 12 months. It’s been all eyes on that market,” selling agent Miron Solomons said.
“Over the course of 2020, Bondi Beach demonstrated that it was a safe haven for investment as investors and developers sought out markets with strong fundamentals and track record.”
Joint selling agent Matt Pontey said the site was a rare landholding.
“The fundamentals are excellent with limited supply, huge capital growth and well-heeled buyers familiar with the unbeatable lifestyle on offer,” he said. “We have not seen a vacant site in such a prime position offered on Hall Street. The strip is much loved by locals who will undoubtedly compete for this rare landholding.”
Mr Solomons said whether the site was used as high-end retail or as a food business, it would still have the legacy left behind by Westpac.
“The traditional bank is making a transition from a bigger to a smaller footprint and that’s just organic in the sense that everything is online now … they (Westpac) are leaving behind a little bit of a legacy as far as this property goes. It is affectionately known as ‘the bank’, having been there so long,” he said.
An Australian Banking Association spokesman said digital banking had changed the way Australians bank and the services they expected, and COVID-19 had accelerated this change.
“Branch closures are not taken lightly by any bank and are always the result of a dramatic change in customer use,” he said.
“With any branch closure, banks maintain face-to-face services through an existing outlet, a franchising arrangement with the community or agency arrangement with Australia Post.”
According to an ANZ spokesman, people were not using branches as they used to, and demand in contact centres and hardship teams had grown dramatically at the same time.
“We have needed to redeploy staff from some branches to where our customers need them most,” he said.
“The majority of our customers now prefer the convenience of doing their banking when it suits them. Our apps and call centres are convenient and we’ve also seen a number of passbook customers opting for debit cards over the past year.”
Likewise, according to the Commonwealth Bank, before the Coronavirus pandemic about two-thirds of customers used digital channels for their everyday banking needs, such as transferring funds, making payments and checking account balances, while only six per cent of customers visited branches for these tasks.
A Westpac spokeswoman said 98 per cent of customer transactions were now digital and were being completed online via cards or smartphones with more than 42 million internet banking logins each week.
“Our customer service strategy needs to keep pace with this changing customer preference,” she said.
“When making any decision to close a branch, we consider this shift in customer needs and a range of other factors such as usage of that branch, location, and proximity to other banking services.”
The Bondi Beach site has a flexible B4 mixed-use zoning and is adjacent to the soon-to-be-former Australia Post site.
The public auction of 26 Hall Street, Bondi Beach will take place on March 18.
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