ECONOMY

Banking networks shrinking

An average of just over one branch is suspending its operations definitively every working day in the context of the restructuring plans of Greece’s systemic banks. The objective of the banks is to curtail their branch networks in this country by 800 to 1,000 units by the end of 2017.

“In the current period up to two branches are shutting down around the country per day,” a high-ranking bank official told Kathimerini.

“The biggest part of the adjustment will take place in 2013 and 2014, with small-scale adjustments to follow for the rationalization of the networks.”

At the end of 2012 the combined networks of banks across the country amounted to 3,350 branches. After the end of the restructuring it will account for between 2,350 and 2,500 units, which constitutes a reduction of 25 to 30 percent.

The extent of the mergers completed in the sector have been unprecedented, as within just a few months as many as 11 lenders have been taken off the map: Alpha has absorbed Emporiki, the Piraeus Group acquired Geniki, ATEbank, Millennium and the local branches of Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) and Hellenic, National absorbed FBB and Probank, while Eurobank now has Proton and Hellenic Postbank under its control.

As a result, it is not uncommon today in Athens and other major cities to see two or three branches of the same bank operating on the same street.

Piraeus has the biggest network, which at the end of the first quarter amounted to 1,300 points, out of which 480 were in Attica. Alpha Bank follows with 730 branches, while Eurobank’s network has 630 units following its acquisition of Hellenic Postbank. The network of National Bank numbers 500 branches.

Crucially, a similar reduction will be made to the lenders’ staff: Employees in the four systemic banks are set to be reduced by over 20 percent from the current total of 43,000.

In that context, Piraeus has already announced the participation of 2,182 employees in its voluntary exit program, with other banks set to follow in the coming months. National wishes to cut 2,000 jobs and Eurobank would like to see 800 people depart.