ECONOMY

Bank networks shrink considerably

The country’s four systemic lenders have closed some 990 branches nationwide. At the end of June National, Piraeus, Alpha and Eurobank had 2,523 branches across Greece, compared with 3,513 before the start of the financial crisis.

If one also takes into account the closure of branches belonging to smaller banks, then the total reduction of the Greek network amounts to some 1,200 points. In other words, about one in every three bank branches that were open in 2008 are no longer operating. Furthermore sector officials say that another 300 branches around the country will also close in the next four years.

The Piraeus Group, which absorbed a total of six other lenders’ networks in Greece, went from 1,354 branches at end-2012 to 873 branches today, meaning it has implemented the shutdown of 481 branches. The group has further revised its target to 800 points. Piraeus has also slashed its employee numbers by 2,700.

Alpha Bank has reduced its network by 187 points and since June has been reduced to 607 branches from 794 in December 2008. With the bank’s voluntary exit program the total decline in its constant operating costs will come to 35 percent.

National Bank has closed 181 of its branches across Greece. Therefore, from a total of 709 points along with Probank and First Business Bank (FBB), which it absorbed last year, it now has just 528 branches. Its operating expenses have been brought down to 950 million euros on a yearly basis, from 1.31 billion euros in 2008.

Eurobank has reduced its network by 141 branches, as today it numbers 517 points from 656 in 2008. Its aim is to bring the total number down to about 500 branches by the end of 2018.

Notably, before the crisis there were 19 banks, while their number has now been reduced to just seven. The banks to have come off the local bank map are ATEbank, Emporiki, Marfin Egnatia, Bank of Cyprus, Hellenic Bank, Hellenic Postbank (that has been absorbed by Eurobank), Millennium Bank, Proton, Probank and FBB, while Piraeus is about to complete its absorption of Geniki and Citibank’s local network has been acquired by Alpha.