The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is reportedly on the verge of signing a retail banking agreement that it hopes will help lessen the impact of a mass bank exodus from rural areas.
An industry source claims the Guild - which represents about 95 per cent of Australia's 5000-plus pharmacies - is looking to form a banking alliance in a bid to make pharmacies "the banks of the bush".
The assertion follows several reports of purported unions between banks and retail outlets which are keen to offer electronic, on-site banking services - such as ATMs - at non-traditional banking sites in an attempt to survive in an increasingly liberalised environment.
"We've been saying that pharmacies are a really important part of community life and when the banks go, everything else goes with them. But pharmacies tend to keep going," a Guild official said. "Essentially, what we're saying is that pharmacies could be the banks of the bush."
Although it refutes claims that it plans to sign a retail banking deal "in the near future", the Guild spokesman said such a proposal is under consideration.
"We've made a submission to a standing committee saying that pharmacies could provide those sorts of financial services, but I don't think we're as close as speculation suggests to a deal with a particular bank."