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Norwegian retail bank DNB has announced plans to close half its remaining branches as the country’s move to digital banking gathers pace.
A total of 600 full-time positions will be lost, although the bank is allocating new resources to customer service and digital developments.
The move has been condemned by Finansforbudet, Norway’s labour union for the banking sector, which described the move as “irresponsible”. Although it accepts the need to downsize the branch structure, the union argues that a more incremental approach would be more appropriate.
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“We understand the new technologies and new ways to serve clients results in reduced need for offices and employees in the future,” said union leader Pål Adrian Hellman. “We nevertheless believe that DNB’s financial strength and important role in society means the bank has both the opportunity and responsibility to do this in a way that is best for society.”
The emergence of digital as the dominant channel for consumer banking is hard to ignore, with the majority of Norwegian banking customers no longer using a branch for everyday banking, while over-the-counter branch services have shrunk massively in the last two years. This is in part driven by supply as well as demand, as many branches of Norwegian banks no longer carry cash.
“When customers change their banking habits, we must follow suit,” said Trond Bentestuen, head of personal banking Norway at DNB.
“Customers make extensive use of our self-service channels, and therefore it is a logical consequence to adjust our physical distribution network. Consequently, we will reduce the number of branches serving our personal customers from 116 to 57 during the first six months of this year,” he added.
Read more about digital banking in the Nordic region
- Norway’s banking system is undergoing a seismic shift in technology as the country aims for a fully digitised society.
- Banks in the Nordic region are fighting it out in the mobile payments space as they woo a digitally savvy population.
- In Sweden cash is on the payments periphery, and some think it might be the first country to go wholly cashless.
DNB said that in 2015 there had been 156 million visits to its mobile bank, 91 million visits to its internet bank, and four out of five customers who entered into savings schemes did so online.
Vipps vs MobilePay
The growth in mobile banking has been matched by the success of Vipps, the digital payments app the bank launched last year. Vipps has been downloaded over a million times in a country with a population of just over 5 million.
Vipps continues to dominate the mobile payments landscape in Norway. However, not until late 2016 will users of DNB’s Vipps be able to pay for shopping in the Rema 1000 supermarket chain nationwide. Its closest competitor, Danske Bank’s MobilePay, already has that facility.
“Little will change”
“For most of our customers, both personal and corporate, little will change,” said Bentestuen. “They can solve their everyday banking needs digitally. They can call us 24 hours a day, every day, 365 days a year. They can also meet us via our chat and social media channels.
“Straightforward banking services can be carried out in in-store postal and banking outlets and in post offices at more than 2,400 locations across the country.”
Changes will also affect the bank’s corporate operations, with a 25% reduction in offices to reflect the digital trends in business banking. Some 90% of companies that establish a new customer relationship with DNB do so digitally.
DNB Einedom, the bank’s property arm, will retain its presence in all its current locations.