The number of bank branches in Europe has fallen by 21 per cent over the past 10 years with Spanish institutions leading the way, having closed more than 18,000 branches.
The decline in branches comes as the number of people working at credit institutions fell to the lowest level on record last year.
New figures from the European Banking Federation show the contraction in the banking sector continued in 2017 with the number of credit institutions in the EU falling by 5 per cent to 6,250. This was a reduction of 2,275 since 2009. The decline was led by Germany, Italy, Hungary and Austria, with the UK and Sweden showing a rise in institutions.
In Ireland, the number of credit institutions, which includes non-banks, fell to 916 from 1,048 a year earlier, and compared to a high of 1,228 in 2009.
Overall, there were 58 banks operating in the Republic at the end of 2017, according to figures supplied by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland for the report . These included 24 credit institutions authorised in Ireland (of which five were covered bond banks) and 34 branches of foreign banks operating locally.
While the number of banks has been relatively stable in recent years, the number of credit unions fell from 292 to 269 during 2017 as part of a consolidation in the sector.
According to the European Banking Federation, almost 50,000 bank branches have been shuttered across the EU over the past decade. The number of branches open dropped by a further 3.1 per cent or 5,900 last year to about 183,000.
The federation attributed the decline in branches to the popularity of online and mobile banking services, which are now used by 51 per cent of people in the EU, as against 29 per cent a decade ago. In the Republic, more than 160 bank branches have closed since 2008.
BPFI figures show there were 654 retail bank branches operating locally last year, down from 675 a year earlier.
“These figures reflect a broad trend in Europe as a whole of restructuring and consolidation across the branch networks of banks and other financial institutions as digital and mobile delivery channels prove increasingly popular with customers,” said Felix O’Regan, director of public affairs at BPFI.
Meanwhile, the number of people working for banks across the EU last year fell to its lowest level since the ECB started recording data in 1997.
Some 2.74 million people were employed by credit institutions in the EU at the end of 2017, compared to 2.78 million a year earlier, and 3.13 million in 2009.
Credit institutions in Ireland employed an estimated 26,300 people at the end of 2017, the BPFI said.