EU banks closed 5,500 branches across the continent in 2012

BANKS closed 5,500 branches across the European Union last year, 2.5 per cent of the total, leaving the region with 20,000 fewer outlets than it had when the financial industry was plunged into crisis in 2008.

Last year’s cuts come after 7,200 branches were axed in 2011, according to data analysed by Reuters from European Central Bank statistics.

Banks across Europe have been closing branches in a bid to trim operating costs and improve their battered earnings. A rise in consumers turning to online and telephone banking services has accelerated the trend.

The data show EU banks cut eight per cent of branches in aggregate in the four years to the end of 2012, leaving 218,687 branches, or one for every 2,300 people.

Last year’s sharpest cuts were largely contained to the embattled periphery of the currency bloc.