International Comparisons of Bank Branches – An Update 3. Payments System Entry Points

The 1994 submission noted that comparisons of countries' banking systems on the basis of bank branches were potentially misleading. Banking and payment services are also provided by non-bank financial intermediaries and particularly in Europe, by post offices.

The Bank for International Settlements publishes data on a broader measure of access, viz ‘entry points’ to the payments system; this includes branches of all financial institutions as well as post offices which offer payment services. Graph 3 shows that the general trend has been a decline in entry points per capita; only Italy and Japan recorded increases. Australia was in the middle of the range in 1996 with 669 entry points per million inhabitants, compared with 743 in 1992.

Graph 3
Graph 3: Payments System Entry Points

The data for Australia include branches of non-bank financial intermediaries (building societies and credit unions) and post office agencies of the Commonwealth Bank. In 1995, Australia Post introduced giroPost, an electronic banking and financial services network which provides access at over 2,500 post offices to a range of banking services for card-based accounts of participating financial institutions (currently nine).[2]

If each giroPost office were considered a separate entry point for each participating institution (although at the same physical location), Australia would rank at the top of the table for entry points per million inhabitants. Looked at in this way, the establishment of giroPost could be seen as offsetting the long-term decline in the number of bank agencies and increasing the range of choice for customers at each of its representation points, around 40 per cent of which are in rural communities.


The participating institutions are Adelaide Bank, Advance Bank, Bank of Melbourne, Bendigo Bank, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, HongkongBank, Metway Bank, and Piccol Credit Union. Customers can use their debit and credit cards at the post office to access their bank accounts for deposits, withdrawals, account balance enquiries and payments for credit card bills; they can also open new accounts. Unlike the giro systems of some Western European countries, however, members of the public do not maintain accounts directly with Australia Post. [2]