Many branches have also closed in recent years, partly due to corona. At the beginning of 2020, Rabobank still had 335 branches, of which 136 are now left. ING went from 170 full-fledged bank branches in mid-2020 to 57 now.
It is quite a search for an ABN Amro office: there are now 27 in our country. In six of the twelve provinces there is only one ABN Amro branch. In 2001, ten years after the merger between ABN and Amro, there were just over 1000 branches.
‘Fewer customers in offices’
It is striking that SNS, which is considerably smaller than ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank, has by far the most bank branches: over 200. The bank says it wants to be close to customers, for personal contact. SNS also wants to maintain the sizeable office network. “There are plenty of customers coming into the offices.”
But ABN Amro, ING and Rabobank are closing offices precisely because, according to them, fewer customers are coming. Over the past four years, the number of office visits has fallen by almost 80 percent, says Alberta Opoku, spokesperson for ING Bank. At ABN Amro, there was a decrease of almost 50 percent between January 2021 and October 2022, says spokesperson Hans-Sjouke Koopal.
In some offices, he said, only five or six customers came in a day. “If three or fewer customers come an hour, it is a signal that there is no longer any need from customers,” said Opoku.
Online and home visit
Banks have been fully committed to online banking for some time. Even your 80-year-old mother does everything via her laptop. Customers no longer want to go to a bank branch at all, says RTL Z stock exchange commentator Jacob Schoenmaker.
You can also chat or call your bank. And you can ask questions and arrange things via a video connection. ABN Amro employees even come to your home.
In addition to the fully-fledged branches, ING also has more than 200 service points. You can go here for simple matters, such as changing the pass limit, or making an appointment at a fully-fledged office. But that can also be done online, according to ING.
The question is how many service points will remain. In any case, there are now fewer than the approximately 250 that were still assumed in mid-2020.
In addition to the 136 offices, Rabobank also has 31 flexible branches for specific services, such as a mortgage in a new housing estate. In addition to SNS, Volksbank also has Regiobank. This has about 450 branches with independent financial advisors.
Still need offices?
Are bank branches still needed? “At the moment, but maybe not in the long term,” says Casper de Vries, professor of monetary economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
“But I can imagine that at least one branch will remain open per province, also because you sometimes have to pass by,” says Schoenmaker.
He does think that the number of bank branches will fall even further: “It is a trend that I do not see reversing, so ABN Amro is ahead of the other banks”.
‘Time will tell’
ABN Amro says there is no minimum number of offices it thinks it will be left with. “We do want to be present in the region, also for business customers,” says Koopal. “How that will be in the future, I can’t say yet.” According to ING, time will tell ‘if and to what extent offices will remain necessary’. “At the moment, offices are still needed,” says Opoku.
ING says it expects the number of branches to decrease further in the coming years. By how much, Opoku won’t say.
It seems likely that the total number of bank branches will decrease further. For example, the offices of some banks are quite close to each other. There are also offices that are only open a few days a week, sometimes by appointment only. The Rabobank branch in Losser, Twente, is only open one day a week, and then only for two hours.
Banks will also be able to manage with fewer offices to compete with fintechs such as Adyen, thinks Schoenmaker. “Why is Adyen worth more on the stock exchange than ABN Amro or ING? Also because it has to carry much less personnel costs.”
Employees are also badly needed elsewhere in the labor market, Schoenmaker adds.
‘Losing strategy SNS’
It is then striking that SNS retains a large number of offices in our country. “As a bank, you can choose as a strategy to profile yourself that you are easily accessible, with physical offices. But I do think it is a losing strategy, because the need is not there at all among most people,” says Schoenmaker.
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