EghtesadOnline: Data from the Central Bank of Iran shows lenders are working to cut extra and unwanted branches over the past two quarters.
Banks and credit institutions shuttered 438 branches since the beginning of the current fiscal year (March 20) up until the seventh calendar month on October 22.
The number of bank branches was reduced to 23,111 by the end of last calendar month, down from 23,549 branches operating until March, the CBI-affiliated news agency IBENA reported.
The decline, subtle and insignificant that seems, comes as many banking and economic experts have regularly called for closing the unwanted and unhelpful branches to cut costs and encourage customers towards mobile banking instead of coming to the bank, Financial Tribune reported.
Earlier in the week, Abbas Memarnejad, the deputy economy minister for banking, insurance and state-owned companies' affairs said banks need to shed 10,000 branches.
“For now 12,000 branches are able to meet the needs of customers,” he said, citing a study by the Ministry of Economy.
New data suggest that there is one bank branch for every 3,600 people in Iran.
According to IBENA, most of the scrapped branches were owned by Tejarat Bank, Bank Saderat Iran and the state-owned Bank Melli Iran.
The Top Three
With a total of 3,212 branches, Bank Melli Iran had the largest share of bank offices by the month to Oct.22. Bank Saderat Iran was in second place with 2,623 branches. Agricultural Bank of Iran and Tejarat Bank were third with 1,862 branches each.
Compared with norms in the region and beyond, the number of bank branches in Iran is much higher, giving rise to criticism that about the dysfunctional branches imposing additional costs on struggling banking sector.
Based on a Word Bank report in 2016, there were 12.5 bank branches in the world for every 100, 000 adults. The number for Iran in that year was 31.3.
Iran’s average is also more than double the MENA average that is 14.7 bank branches for every 100,000 adults.
According to the WB, to reach the global average, Iran needs to cut the number of branches to 8,868, which means eliminating a whopping 11,730 offices.
By the same token to reach the MENA average, 10,169 branches must go. To reach the average among countries in the higher income bracket, Iran should slash the number of bank branches to 10,713, which means doing away with 9,885 branches.