Wednesday 21 February 2018

Number of bank officials plummets as branches close doors

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Ireland now has far fewer bank officials than it did during the boom. The decline over the past five years is the sharpest in the euro area.

There is now one bank official serving every 144 people here, down from one official for every 100 people back in 2008. The drop is due to branch closures and rationalisations but also rising population, according to a new Banking Structures Report from the European Central Bank (ECB).

The research, published yesterday, looks at the structural impact of the financial crisis in the key years from 2008 to the end of 2012.

Over that period the value of European banking assets fell 12pc to €29.5bn, according to the report.

The total number of European banks dropped by 10pc over the same period, reflecting a wave of mergers and nationalisations as the sector was saved by national governments, the report said.

The major "adjustments" happened in 2009, at the height of the banking crisis.

The fallout from the banking crisis means Ireland is at the forefront of a Europe- wide trend of bank branch closures.

As well as individual branch closures that included the takeover, and eventual closure, of big banks like Anglo Irish Bank and the withdrawal of Bank of Scotland (Ireland), the trend is set to continue with the planned closures of ACC Bank and Danske Bank in 2014, and the likely slimming down of Ulster Bank's operations.

Across the eurozone around 16,200 bank branches have been shut since 2008, 8.7pc of the total. Here the number is closer to 20pc.

However, the ratio of customers to bank branches in Ireland is still around double the level in Austria or Germany, countries widely regarded as having competitive domestic banking sectors.

Ireland's banking sector appears relatively competitive based on a model looking at the total value of assets held by the five biggest credit institutions – which shows the five main banks account for just over 55pc of assets.

In Estonia the five main banks account for more than 90pc of assets, compared with Germany where a fragmented sector means the big five control one in three assets.

However, the Irish data, like that of Luxembourg, is likely to be distorted by the importance of international financial institutions based here.

In Ireland the assets of the domestic banks are equal to around 200pc of the size of the economy and if the assets of IFSC-based institutions are included the figure rises to 600pc.

Irish Independent

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