Banks continue to curtail offline branches amid increased mobile banking

SEOUL-- Banks in South Korea continued to reduce the number of their offline branches in 2021 as part of efforts to reduce costs amid the expanded use of mobile banking, data showed Wednesday.

The number of brick-and-mortar branches run by local banks came to 6,904 as of end-2021, down 311 from a year earlier, according to the data from the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

The number has been decreasing, with the pace of the decline gaining speed in recent years. The 2021 reduction was larger than the 57 branches closed in 2019 and the 304 in 2020.

The downward trend was due to the expanded use of mobile banking, which has grown in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic, along with banks' continued efforts to reduce costs by closing offices and reducing staff.

The emergence of internet-only banks, such as Kakao Bank, has also played a role in prompting major banks to intensify cost-cutting efforts and expand their mobile banking services.

Shinhan Bank saw the number of its offices drop by 75 on-year in 2021, the most among all banks, followed by KB Kookmin Bank with 58 and Woori Bank with 53.

Concerns are growing that the declining number of bank branches could increase the inconvenience for older people and other digitally marginalized ones.

The FSS said it will actively support efforts for banks to share their branches in a bid to minimize such inconveniences.

Source: Yonhap News Agency