Santander to close 13% of Spanish branch network this year

Santander to close 13% of Spanish branch network this year

Banco Santander is to close up to 450 of its 3467 branches in Spain this year as it seeks to accelerate the move to cheaper digital channels.

Most of the 425 to 450 sites slated for the axe are smaller branches employing fewer than four people, the Spanish giant says. It is not known how many jobs will be lost but the Comisiones Obreras union says it expects clarity next week.

Another 350 branches will undergo makeovers, getting new ATMs that carry out more transactional services, freeing up staffers for advisory work.

Santander has a plan in place to save EUR3 billion by the end of 2018, in part by doubling the number of customers who deal with the bank digitally rather than through its massive and expensive branch network.

The bank has been investing heavily in digital products and services over the past year. Its $100 million InnoVentures fund has actively invested in fast-growing companies at the forefront of the fintech startup space, including marketplace lender Kabbage and blockchain outfits Digital Asset Holdings and Ripple.

However, last year chair Ana Botin also talked up the benefits of having a branch network, claiming that a physical presence is a major advantage that incumbents have over the host of new entrants entering the market.

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