Savings banks & Volksbanks share locations

Frankfurt Savings banks and Volksbanks are increasingly operating joint ATM locations. According to a survey by the Handelsblatt, the savings banks in some regions are already cooperating with ten to almost 20 percent of the locations with Volksbanks and Raiffeisenbanks.

The savings banks in Westphalia-Lippe last counted 472 self-service branches. These are locations with self-service, i.e. ATMs and partly statement printers. They run 92 of them, i.e. almost 20 percent, together with the cooperative banks. That would be 24 more than a year earlier.

At the end of 2021, there were a total of 460 self-service locations in the Hesse-Thuringia regional association, with banks cooperating on 18 percent of them. In the previous year, the proportion was still 13 percent. In Baden-Württemberg, the savings banks operate 15 percent of their self-service branches together with Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken, in Bavaria the proportion is around ten percent.

There are no figures for the entire federal territory. Neither the German Savings Banks and Giro Association nor the Federal Association of Volksbanks and Raiffeisenbanks have the relevant data.

However, the banks will increasingly cooperate. The Savings Banks Association of Hesse-Thuringia writes: “The shared use of infrastructure offerings by savings banks and Volksbanks is nothing fundamentally new. In recent years, however, such cooperations in the self-service area have increased noticeably in view of the increasing cost pressure.” This trend will certainly continue.

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Joachim Herrmann, Managing Director of the Baden-Württemberg Savings Banks Association, also expects that they will operate more locations with the Volksbanks. “More and more are coming,” he said recently. In most cases, there are ATMs from Sparkasse and Genossenschaftsbank in self-service locations, but sometimes they share a machine.

For savings banks and cooperative banks, the common locations are ambivalent. On the one hand, they make it possible to remain visibly present in the area. On the other hand, the more than 360 savings banks and, most recently, around 770 Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken are the fiercest competitors, especially in rural areas.

According to Oliver Mihm, head of the consulting firm Investors Marketing, it is often about locations in communities with 2000 to 3000 inhabitants. “There it is often no longer worthwhile to operate a manned branch. With a shared location for ATMs, you can share the costs of filling the machines, security and power lines,” he says. “And the banks can remain present with their brands.”

Mihm expects that there will be even more joint ATM locations in the future. “At the same time, some of them will be closed because the costs remain high.” In fact, a service in which banks or savings banks bring the money home on request is cheaper.

The number of ATMs and branches will continue to fall

Overall, the number of ATMs in Germany is likely to continue to fall. On the one hand, fewer people use cash, even if it is still comparatively popular. In 2021, consumers paid 61 percent of purchases at the checkout in cash, compared to 66 percent a year earlier. This was determined by the EHI Retail Institute, a retail research institute. In 2018, the proportion was 76 percent. With regard to the share of sales, card payments already predominate at almost 60 percent.

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On the other hand, it is often possible to withdraw cash when shopping at the cash register in retail stores. According to the EHI Institute, a good four percent of the total sales of large retailers were paid out again through cash withdrawals at the till last year. A year earlier it was three percent.

The overall branch cuts will also continue because the majority of people now use online banking. Investors Marketing predicts that the number of staffed branches will fall from around 21,700 last time to 12,700 in 2027.

Little has recently moved in the case of joint branches staffed by employees. As a rule, a branch becomes a Sparkasse branch for two days and a Volksbank branch for two days. In Westphalia, for example, there is only one jointly operated branch, in Lower Saxony none at all, in Hesse-Thuringia there are at least 24 and in Bavaria 14.

Shared location of Sparkasse and VR Bank in Dormagen

More and more savings banks and cooperative banks operate ATMs under one roof. You remain present in the area at lower costs.

(Photo: IMAGO/Michael Gstettenbauer)

The “Finanzpunkt” concept, with which the Frankfurter Volksbank and Taunus Sparkasse caused a sensation three years ago, is also finding few imitators. So far, only three other pairs of savings banks and cooperative banks have started a total of four financial points.

Frankfurter Volksbank and Taunus Sparkasse jointly operate 26 branches and self-service locations under the “Finanzpunkt” label, the first branch of which since the end of 2019. Such a comprehensive cooperation between a public law and a cooperative institute, a kind of “Volks-Sparkasse”, was new.

There have been savings banks and cooperative banks that share branches for some time, but not on the same scale as in the Rhine-Main region. A separate design for the locations was even developed there. Whenever Volksbank employees are on site at a financial point, the advice counter in the branch that is visible from the outside lights up in blue. On the savings bank days, it lights up red.

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