Fewer and fewer bank branches, in 2023 there will be 826 branches. Among the most affected regions are Sicily and Calabria


By John

Banking desertification does not stop, rather it accelerates. There are 3,300 Italian municipalities left without branches. The data from the First Cisl Fiba Foundation Observatory certify a phenomenon that, year after year, advances without appeal. In 2023, 826 branches closed, at the end of 2022 there were 677. A quarter of the national territory, with a surface area larger than that of Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont, has been abandoned by the banks. The regions most affected in the last year were Marche (-6.7%), Abruzzo (-5.1%), Lombardy (-5.1%), Sicily (-5%) and Calabria (-4.2 %). Overall, therefore, at a national level, the loss of branches was 3.9% The number of people who do not have access to a branch in the municipality of residence is also increasing: there are 362 thousand more than a year ago. However, there are over 6 million Italians residing in municipalities where there is only one branch left and who risk finding themselves soon cut off from banking services. “The race to close the branches has not stopped even in 2023, indeed it promises to record a further acceleration in 2024 based on the implementation of the banks’ business plans. The increase in the number of desertified municipalities has now reached proportions from social alarm”, warns the general secretary of First Cisl, Riccardo Colombani. In fact, 41.5% of Italian municipalities no longer have bank branches in their territory. During 2023, moreover, 134 municipalities were “desertified”.

An advancing desertification: between 2015 and 2023, 13% of Italian municipalities saw the last branch close. A percentage that could rise further given that the municipalities with only one branch are 24% of the total. At the provincial level, the picture sees Barletta-Andria-Trani, Brindisi, Grosseto, Ragusa, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia and Pisa which are the least desertified. In further behind positions are large cities such as Milan, Rome and Naples. Vibo Valentia and Isernia are in the queue. Finally, what makes the social malaise more acute is “the modest diffusion” – as highlighted again by the First-Cisl analysis – of internet banking: in Italy 51.5% of users use it compared to a higher EU average and it is 63.9%. And businesses also have to deal with the haemorrhage of branches, among which the number of those based in municipalities without bank branches is increasing. The latest monitoring indicates 255 thousand: 22 thousand more than a year ago.