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Nordic countries dominate European online banking take-up

Nordics dominate online banking take-up in Europe, but the UK is not far behind

Only the Netherlands prevents the five Nordic nations from a clean sweep at the top of the table for online banking penetration.

According to, using European Union statistics for 2020, Norway tops the European league with 95% of adults using online banking services, followed by Iceland (94%), Denmark (91%), and Finland (91%). Sweden was ranked sixth at 84%, with the Netherlands breaking the dominance in fifth place with (91%).

Economic, social and geographic factors contribute to the high take-up of digital banking services in Nordic countries.

Countries such as Finland and Sweden have rich tech ecosystems, including a large number of successful financial technology (fintech) firms offering consumers options when it comes to banking online.

Nordic tech companies, including Klarna, have a particularly strong focus on payments, which has developed partly because of the openness of people in the region to new digital payment methods.

Due to acquiring knowledge from local companies, which become well-known brands in the region, Nordic consumers are also more likely to trust and try out digital alternatives to traditional banking. Meanwhile, the geography and climate in many parts of the region makes it challenging for many to bank in person.

The region, which tops the online banking table, is moving away from traditional financal services such as using cash. The central bank in Norway, Norges Bank, recently claimed to use less cash as a proportion of total spending than any other country across the globe.

A survey from the Norges Bank revealed that less than 4% of spending in the country was made using cash in the autumn months.

Meanwhile, the UK has the eighth highest online banking penetration in Europe, with 76% of adults using the services, according to the data. This has increased from 50% in 2013, 42% penetration in 2010, and 30% in 2007.

In the UK, during the first quarter of 2020, 58% of consumers said they accesses their online banking through their smartphone. In comparison, France had 66% penetration, Germany 61% and Italy 36%.

Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro all had less than 10% penetration.

“Both traditional established banks and newer digital online banks have taken advantage of the rise of mobile devices with the smartphone the preferred device to access online banking,” said

Since the figures were released, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly spread, placing restrictions on people’s movements and leading to the closure of banks and shops. This has pushed more people online and mobile banking has accelerated.

One of the side effects of this has been for banks – looking to cut overall costs while increasing spending on technology – to close more branches. In the past few months alone, hundreds of branch closures and thousands of job cuts have been announced.

As people turn to digital banking during the Covid-19 pandemic, banks have accelerated plans to close bank branches, often citing the rise of online banking when justifying cuts.

One IT professional in the UK banking sector said: “I am sure the banks are delighted to close branches under the cover of Covid-19. Sadly, branches are just a piece of history now, and I’m sure we will see them all go eventually. Nobody thought the horse and cart would disappear when that’s all they had.”

Read more about bank branch closures

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