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Why are so many banks and ATMs disappearing in Catalonia?

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Why are so many banks and ATMs disappearing in Catalonia?
Photos: AFP
11:00 CET+01:00
Half of all bank branches in Catalonia have closed shop in the last decade, leaving residents in hundreds of municipalities without a way of withdrawing cash.

More than 240,000 people in Catalonia - 3 percent of the region’s population - don’t have access to cash withdrawal services in their municipalities.

This represents the highest index across all of Spain, despite the fact that Catalonia is a far more densely populated autonomous community than Spanish regions of the likes of Extremadura, Castilla y La Mancha and Castilla y León.

This spike in bank closures has meant that for the residents of 467 of Catalonia’s 947 municipalities withdrawing money from their accounts involves a trip to another town.

“Having an ATM machine close by should be a civil right,” Enric Vendrell, spokesperson for the Association of Bank Customers (Adicae) told Spanish daily Público.

“For elderly people who don’t have a car or who have reduced mobility this should be a basic service, not a luxury.”

According to the consumer watchdog, Spanish banks are focusing their energies on attracting new and younger customers who are far more adept at online banking than older bank account holders.

This shift towards digital banking, coupled with a will to cut costs during Spain’s crisis years, has also resulted in the loss of 70,000 jobs across the country due to the relentless branch closures.

Only last week, Spanish bank Caixabank revealed its plans to close 821 of the 4,461 offices in the next three years (In 2008 the Barcelona-headquartered financial entity had 8,004 branches).

Banco Popular went one step further last October, anncouncing it would close all its 300 branches by June 2019.

And yet a recent study by the Bank of Spain reveals that 53 percent Spaniards still prefer to pay for products and services in cash.

Adicae is calling for “a system which doesn’t exclude part of its clientele”, arguing that “banks no longer seek to improve customer loyalty but rather are run like cafés that every two or three years change owners”.


 

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