Victoria braces for interstate assault

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Australia's second-tier banks and financial institutions are pushing aggressively into the Victorian market, fuelling activity in the jobs sector.

Interstate banks such as Perth's BankWest, Sydney's St George Bank and Bank of Queensland are steadily building up their staff networks, opening retail branches and business centres in strategic locations around Melbourne.

As well as taking on the major banks, including the Melbourne-headquartered National Australia Bank and ANZ, the interstate clan are also eyeing the profitable business bases developed by players such as Bendigo Bank and financial heavyweight GE Money.

Bank of Queensland managing director David Liddy says the bank is expanding its retail network through owner-manager franchises.

"Victoria is a key market for financial services," he says. "We have 16 Victorian branches and another 10 in the short-term pipeline, about 400 branded ATM machines, and strong operations in business banking and equipment finance. We've done all of this over the last 18 months and will continue to grow our business in the Victorian market," Liddy says.

Peter Lock, St George Bank's general manager Victoria, says his bank has a good core competency across the full range of trading bank businesses.

"We've gone about things fairly aggressively over the last couple of years," Lock says. "We've opened 10 brand-new, full-service sites, repositioned a couple of others as well, increased our ATM coverage, and really increased our footprint in Victoria. We are hiring in a range of areas."

Paul Clark, head of BankWest's business banking division, says Melbourne is a very important banking market.

"We've been in Victoria for 10 years and we're going to stay here," he reports. "We're going to open more and more centres over the next 12 months."