Banks continue to close branches throughout Berlin as low interest rates squeeze their margins and customers increasingly opt for online banking.
Some 87 bank branches have closed — or will close by the end of this year — since 2016, pushing some lenders such as Sparkasse to mull the use of mobile bus branches to replace service in Berlin suburbs, the Tagesspiegel reported.
The closures are partially due to mergers in the past decade, which left some banks with too many locations in the Hauptstadt — Commerzbank swallowed Dresdner Bank in 2008 and Deutsche Bank bought Berliner Bank a year earlier. The two parents have gradually closed locations as leases expired and Deutsche in 2015 opted to eliminate the Berliner Bank branding altogether midst tough financial times.
The closures especially affect seniors who rely on tellers to help them with their banking activity, according to the paper.
“Closing branches is often associated with social decline,” Bundestag member Kai Wegner (CDU), who represents Spandau, told the paper. “Neighborhoods need stability and banks carry a big responsibility.”
Although banks often attempt to leave ATMs at the locations, landlords aren’t always amiable, as is reportedly the case with the closure of a Berliner Volksbank branch at Gesundbrunnen. It’s still looking for a location for an ATM in the area.
The bank told the Tagesspiegel it plans on closing 8 more locations this year — including one each in Lichterfelde, Friedenau and Charlottenburg — after turning off the lights in 13 locations last year.
The Berliner Sparkasse is contemplating using mobile bus branches to offset the loss of branches in areas such as Köpenick but politicians are wary.
“We’ve had a good experience with the library buses,” Tagesspiegel quoted Bundestag member Mathias Schmidt (SPD), who represents Treptow-Köpenick. “We’ll watch to see if this also works.”
Photo thanks Klaus Wedde.