The overcapacity of offices in Spanish banks is still well above the European Union average, despite the acceleration of closures since the last major crisis. The Spanish financial sector currently has a ratio of 46 branches per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data from the Bank of Spain, while the average for the euro zone is limited to 20 branches per 100,000 inhabitants.
However, the latest cuts made by entities since the beginning of the pandemic have lowered the ratio of offices and Spain already has less than France, a neighboring country that has 47 offices per 100,000 inhabitants, although it is still far from countries such as Italy, with 39 branches per 100,000 inhabitants or Germany, with 29 offices per 100,000 inhabitants.
Since the beginning of the last great recession, in 2008, when the banking system then had a total of 46,118 branches, it has closed 52% of the branches, reaching 21,705 at the end of March 2021.
And the The closings will continue on the one hand within the framework of the EREs launched by different entities, such as CaixaBank after the merger with Bankia, BBVA or the one recently announced by Sabadell, in the absence of knowing the adjustment that Unicaja will also make after absorbing Liberbank. In fact, between CaixaBank, BBVA and Sabadell , some 2,300 branches are expected to close in the coming months. This new adjustment of branches will mean another bite of more than 10% to the current network in our country.
In addition, although the adjustments that Unicaja will make after joining the Asturian bank are not yet known , analysts do dare to put figures on it. According to a report prepared at the time by Santander Corporate & Investment Banking, the new bank should close some 300 branches to avoid duplication and generate savings, which would represent 20% of the almost 1,500 that the combined entity adds.
Likewise, from Barclays they consider that the network of employees of the Andalusian group will be reduced by 27% by the end of 2023, which would mean the departure of some 2,600 workers, compared to the current workforce of 9,600 million.
On the other hand, and despite banking overcapacity, office closures leave millions of people vulnerable to cash. Specifically, according to the latest report by the Bank of Spain in this regard, 1.3 million citizens of our country (3% of the population) are in a situation that can be considered vulnerable . At the provincial level, Cuenca is the one with the highest number of traditional cash access points per 1,000 inhabitants (2.4) and on the opposite side is Cádiz (1.1 points per 1,000 inhabitants).
Thus, while in six Spanish provinces and in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla 100% of the inhabitants have a bank office or an ATM within a radius of 5 kilometers, in another eight it is less than 90%.
Post office as an alternative
The Bank of Spain welcomes the use of Post Offices as points of access to cash for the population, given the foreseeable reduction in the number of branches and ATMs in the coming years with the increase in digitization and search of greater efficiency on the part of credit institutions. In this sense, it also points to other solutions for the population to withdraw or deposit cash such as tobacconists, lottery points and state bets or commercial establishments .