FRANKFURT (dpa-AFX) - For the first time, there are fewer than 20,000 bank branches in Germany. Banks and savings banks in Germany still operated 19,501 staffed branches at the end of December, as the Bundesbank announced in Frankfurt on Monday. This was 945 or 4.6 percent fewer than a year ago. "The increasing spread of online banking and the continuing cost pressure led to a downsizing of the branch network in virtually all banking sectors," the Bundesbank stated.

Because many people carry out banking transactions on their home computer or via an app on their smartphone, financial institutions have been thinning out their expensive branch network for years and trying to maintain their presence in the area away from fixed locations: for example, through video advice, advice centers with longer opening hours even on Saturdays, with savings bank buses or shared branches across institutional boundaries.

The pace of branch closures has slowed somewhat

In a recently published survey by the digital association Bitkom, almost half (49%) of the 1004 respondents said that they would "not miss anything" if there were no more bank branches. Meanwhile, according to the latest Bundesbank figures, the pace of branch closures slowed last year. In the coronavirus years of 2021 (2,388 branches closed) and 2022 (1,266), the pandemic had reinforced the trend towards online banking, which ultimately led to a significantly higher percentage of branch closures. Pure ATM locations are not included in the statistics.

According to the Bundesbank figures, the savings banks and Landesbanken still operate the most branches, with 7,104 locations at the end of last year. The cooperative banks, which include the Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken, have 6588 branches.

According to the figures, 52 mergers, primarily in the cooperative sector, are also the main reason why the total number of credit institutions in Germany fell by 55 to 1403 last year./ben/DP/men