MADRID – Digitization within the banking sector is becoming increasingly visible in the Spanish streets, where a bank branch is now a rarity. In December last year, there were only 22,392 bank branches open in Spain, a decrease of 51%.
This is the conclusion of a study by the Valencian Institute of Economic Research (IVIE) for the Fundación Ramón Areces. The largest number of operational bank branches was registered in 2008, when there were still 46,000. Since that year, one in two bank branches has been closed.
By car to the bank
The digitization of the financial sector has led to the fact that of the 8,131 municipalities in Spain, there are no longer any banks in 4,287. Resulting in 1.39 million Spaniards who want to visit a bank branch for a financial service, must have a car. That equates to 3% of the Spanish population. According to economist Joaquín Maudos of the University of Valencia, the percentage of municipalities with no bank is increasing. Meanwhile the number of people living in these municipalities has increased by 2-3%.
Bank branches disappeared in all Spanish regions, but not equally in all areas. With a decrease of 34%, the fewest offices disappeared in the regions of Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. Most banks disappeared in the Catalonia region, where 64% of the branches closed. However, this mainly happened in Barcelona, where many small financial institutions were taken over by the large banks.
Fewer schools and hospitals too
The IVIE research report states that more and more bank branches disappearing from the Spanish streets. But other essential service institutions such as health centres and educational institutions are disappearing also. For example, accessibility to the aforementioned services for residents of provinces such as Teruel, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Soria and Ávila has deteriorated considerably. This is especially true for healthcare facilities. In Spain, about a million inhabitants have to travel more than 45 minutes to get to the nearest hospital.
According to Maudos, regional authorities should do more to improve access to public services and financial institutions. There should be alternatives such as a timetable with minibuses, the installation of more ATMs and the guarantee that all villages in Spain have access to the internet so that residents can do their banking online.