The new normality that the world is going through two years after the start of the pandemic is experienced with changes in the financial system. Although most banks say you have not closed branches At this time, nor does it plan to do so in the near future, another model of customer service offices appears in the urban landscape.
According to data from the latest Financial Inclusion Report, published by the Central Bank at the end of last month, in the last year 56 bank branches were closed, which went from 5,275 in December 2020 throughout the country to 5,219 last December. At the same time, “access points to the financial system” for Argentines have doubled since the end of 2016.
Accelerated by the pandemic, lDigitization transformed the banking business. With a greater proportion of procedures being carried out through virtual channels, the physical branches of the entities changed from transaction spaces to advice or consultation points.
Although the enormous presence of cashin an economy like Argentina with high levels of informality, puts a ceiling on digitization, banks redirect their business model to this paradigm. It is not a local phenomenon: as the Central Bank cites in that report “at a global level there is a trend towards a progressive reduction in the number of branches as a result of the growth of digital financial services and a strategy of the entities”.
In countries like Spain or Great Britain, the shrinking of banking in the physical world has already been a reality for many years. According to data from the European Central Bank (ECB), only from 2016 to 2020 the number of customer service premises in the old continent was reduced by 20%. Only in Spain the banking scenario was transformed and the entities closed one of every three branches in this same period.
While the banks recognize that they are reshaping their business model, the employees distrust the new scenario. At the end of 2021, the Banking Association denounced Banco Santander’s plan to close at least 100 customer service offices, but the initiative was denied by the Spanish-owned company.
A source from the union group told this newspaper that there are no layoffs in the sector, but agreements of parties or pre-retirement. “The reasons are various, technological progress, the pandemic or the maximization of profits that banks seek.” Official data supports these claims.
Also based on official information compiled by the Central Bank, it can be known that in the last year, the top ten banks in the local financial system reduced their staffing by a total of 1,835 jobs.
The bleeding looks greater if you look at the staffing that the banks had when Alberto Fernández’s presidency began: in December 2019 there were 49,525 people who worked in financial institutions, a number that dropped to 45,791 in September last year, latest data available.
The truth is that many branches have been remodeled: with fewer customers in the checkout lines, the designs prioritize open and “work” spaces, where employees can “advise” customers on how to use those same digital channels, while offering them assistance regarding the management of their money.
The new profiles sought by financial institutions have also changed: accounting skills are no longer prioritized as much as those related to programming, customer experience and design. In a low voice, in the entities they say that these transformations are adapted to the new needs of the clients. Thus, banks compete for talent with fintech, a practically new sector in the country that has between 20,000 and 22,000 associated jobs.