Sydney wins again

MELBURNIANS are less than enthusiastic about the fact that both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Mark Latham view Australia from Sydney.

Now Westpac, which was once the Bank of New South Wales and is also headquartered in Sydney, is to dump the Bank of Melbourne as a separate entity. This may be a sensible commercial decision for Australia's oldest bank, but it is a symbolic blow to Melbourne's pride.

When Westpac took over Melbourne's own bank in 1997 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it would continue to trade under its own name, capitalising on the Bank of Melbourne's "friendly, competitive focus and Westpac's financial strength".

A bit over six years later, the Westpac spin on its decision to finally swallow the Bank of Melbourne is that it is "another step in developing a consistent and high quality approach to improving customer relationships".

Westpac goes on to say that it sees the move "as a name change only. Our management team remains the same. Our branch numbers will actually increase and community support through sponsorship and volunteering will not change".

No doubt also unchanged will be the fat fees, minimal interest on savings and tiresome queues that Westpac and the Bank of Melbourne share with other banks.

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