Spain used to have one of the highest concentrations of banks in Europe. The financial crisis, however, has forced a change at a high speed.
Since 2009, a total of 45 savings banks have merged or have been taken over, ending up at a total of 10, while about 4,500 offices have closed around the country.
These changes have been done at a high cost for employment with a loss of about 21,000 jobs since 2009, when the first merger was done between Caixa Sabadell, Caixa Terrassa and Caixa Manlleu into Unnim.
The numbers come from the report Barcelona Economía, published by the municipality of Barcelona, based on information from the regional government and the Bank of Spain.
Affected by crisis
The savings banks, cajas in Spanish, were originally local banks that have often been tightly linked to the local or regional political leadership. During the building bubble, many of them lent heavily to the construction and ended up with large amounts of bad property loans when the crisis started.
Since 2009, the savings banks – which used to make up 50 percent of Spain’s financial sector – have merged or been bought by larger banks, such as Unnim that was bought by BBVA, so that out of 45 savings banks there are now only 10 taking over the heritage of these banks.
The cost has been high on employment. The sector had a total of 269,473 employees in Spain 2009, but at the end of 2011 there only remained 248,408, and this process continues in 2012. In total, there are 21,075 fewer employees in only two years, which means a drastic reduction of 11 percent in the sector during this period.
Reduction of offices
The fusions of banks have also led to a considerable reduction of offices around the country. Since 2009 and until March 2012, in total 4,568 offices closed, according to the report. This means that more than 10 percent of the offices have closed since the first merger.
The region of Catalonia is the one that has been most affected by these changes, which had the largest number of savings banks before the crisis. A total of 10 savings banks have merged into two: CaixaBank and CatalunyaCaixa. The last one will be on auction and is therefore, like the others, likely to disappear.
According to the report, the loss of jobs will continue. “In terms of employment, the numbers seem to indicate that there will still be a significant adjustment of employment,” it says.
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