The Bank of Spain confirms that rural municipalities ask for bank offices, not alternatives

The Bank of Spain has confirmed that the rural municipalities with less than 500 inhabitants They demand bank branches, so the solutions of implementing alternative points of access to cash and banking services do not seem to be effective in addressing the financial exclusion resulting from the closure of branches.

These are some of the conclusions present in the monitoring report this year about in-person accessibility of banking services in Spain, published this Thursday.

“Customers would have perceived, in general, a certain deterioration in the accessibility of banking services throughout 2022 in municipalities without a stable office, despite the increase in the number of cash withdrawal points in said municipalities,” the report states. Bank of Spain in the document.

In this way, the banking supervisor has indicated that it is necessary to “attend not only to the information on the supply side, but also to the information on the demand side to analyze the effectiveness of the different alternatives available in the design of action plans regarding accessibility to banking services”.

Access points

In 2023, compared to 2022, a total of 167 municipalities in Spain gained an access point in person. It is the result of 223 towns that obtained a service point compared to the 56 municipalities that lost their last remaining access point.

Of the 223 municipalities that gained access to banking services, 179 were municipalities of less than 500 inhabitants. The majority of single service point closures also occur in towns of this size, with 45 closures.

Most of these gains access points It is not through stable banking offices, but through alternative channels (financial agents, ofibuses, cashback, Correos Cash, etc.). These channels remain minority use for the population, who prefers attention in stable bank offices.

In fact, in municipalities where the only access point is an alternative channel, the resident population go to other municipalities with an office to carry out your banking transactions, as indicated by the Bank of Spain. In 2023 compared to 2022, the percentage of population residing in municipalities without a stable office with a usual access point more than 5 kilometers away increased from 38.4% to 53.6%.

Total data

The number of in-person access points to banking services experienced a slight decrease in Spain as a whole, due to the office reduction has not been fully compensated by alternative channels.

Between 2021 and 2022, the bank offices They decreased by 7.2%, from 19,014 to 17,648. On the other hand, access points through alternative channels They increased by 1.6%, from 49,869 to 50,672 points. In this regard, the largest percentage increases were recorded in the number of office buses (+28.4%, up to 787) and financial agents (+34.4%, up to 2,299).

In the smallest municipalities, with less than 500 inhabitants, the number of bank offices was reduced from 426 to 379, 11% less. However, alternative access points increased by 22.1%, from 1,109 at the end of 2021 to 1,354 at the end of 2022. This means that despite the closure of offices, access points in small municipalities grew by 12.9% .

Related news

In this sense, the Bank of Spain has indicated that the coverage related to banking services improved to a greater extent than that related to other services (shops, bars, pharmacies, doctors, etc.) depending on the population, given that the percentage of municipalities without in-person access to banking services decreased to a greater extent than the percentage of municipalities without in-person access to any other type of service.

The organization has pointed out as a challenge that Spain has a percentage of uninhabited territory and a population dispersion “far superior” to those of any surrounding country. This makes it difficult to take advantage of scale economics in face-to-face care. However, they have pointed out a possible solution that is widespread in some European countries: shared office and ATM networks.