WASHINGTON — Banking seems to be on the outs in Europe as the financial crisis continues to deepen.
Reuters reported that banks cut 5,500 branches across the European Union last year, which accounted for 2.5% of the total number of banks. Since 2008, 20,000 banks now operate on the continent.
Still, 2011 had more bank closures at 7,200 and are an effort to cut operating costs and improve earnings with fewer branches operating. And, consumers want more online and telephone banking services and has driven the change in banking strategy.
Most of the cuts came from those that are struggling, like banks in Greece. 219 Greek bank branches closed last year as local banks merged to cut costs. Overall, Greece announced it will make its budget goals, but still faces a long road to recovery.
Spain and Ireland were also culprits of large bank branch closures, with Spain losing 1,963 branches (or 4.9%) and Ireland losing 3.3% of its bank branches.