Four of the country’s five largest banks together closed 642 branches and service outlets in the first half of 2021, according to investor reports published in recent weeks by Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, Itaú Unibanco and Santander.
The closure of branches reached 3.7% of physical spaces that the four banks made available at the end of 2020, reducing the number of units to just over 17,000 across the country.
The balance is of 597 closed branches if the 5 large banks in the country are considered, as Caixa announced that it opened 45 branches in the first six months of the year, following the opposite path in relation to its competitors.
The tendency to reduce physical spaces had already been verified throughout 2020 and in previous years, showing a movement to replace face-to-face service with the use of digital channels. The transformation was accelerated by the pandemic and the launch of new services such as Pix.
The bank with the highest number of closings was Banco do Brasil, with 305 spaces, which attributed the change to a movement of “institutional reorganization” announced in January and which foresees the deactivation of 361 units.
Then appear Bradesco, with 227 closings, Santander, with 100, and Itaú Unibanco, with 10.
Bradesco’s executive president, Octavio de Lazari Júnior, has already stated in the entity’s balance sheet that the movement of customers towards digital services allows this transformation and the “rationalization of the network”. In the first half, for example, 98% of the bank’s transactions were made through digital channels. The growth in the use of digital services is also a reality for other banks.
Part of the banks also reduced their staff in the same strategy of reducing face-to-face service and focusing on digital services.
The most emblematic case is again Banco do Brasil, which ended the semester with 6,155 employees less than at the end of 2020 – a reduction of 6.7% in the workforce of 91 thousand employees.
The restructuring announced by the bank in January included a voluntary redundancy program, which had the adhesion of 5,533 employees, as disclosed by Banco do Brasil. The institution did not detail why the number of dismissals recorded in the balance sheets was greater than what was announced as a result of the PDV.
Bradesco ranked second in this regard, with a reduction of 2,213 employees.
Santander, on the other hand, had more admissions than layoffs and ended the semester with 1,827 new professionals. Itaú Unibanco also had more admissions and had a positive balance of 1,750 new workers. The bank attributes the growth to investment in technologies and the incorporation of workers in this area.
Caixa is the only large bank that has a branch expansion plan. In July, the company announced that it will open 268 new units, 100 of which are specialized in agribusiness. “The bank will be present in all Brazilian municipalities with more than 40 thousand inhabitants”, says the institution.
Caixa’s balance sheet does not detail the total number of employees, preventing the analysis of possible expansion or reduction in staff.