The three banking employers AEB, Ceca and Unacc, have presented this Tuesday a report that they have commissioned from the Valencian Institute of Economic Research (IVIE) to quantify financial exclusion in the emptied Spain. The conclusions of this document limit to just over 650,000 people who live without access in their municipality to a point of access to financial services. “The accessibility of banking services in Spain is good”, concluded Joaquín Maudos, director of the IVIE report.
To arrive at that figure, the research commissioned by banks has gone beyond data from bank offices. The document indicates that in Spain there are 4,422 municipalities without a bank branch, where 1.6 million people live. However, to quantify access to financial services, they have added the mobile offices that some entities have, the Post offices that receive some banking services in alliances with entities or the ATMs that are separated from offices. With all this, they point out, there are 657,757 people who do not have access to banking services in 3,330 municipalities.
These services, with which banks have tried to maintain a presence in the most depopulated territories, actually have much more limited services. The operation in Correos, for example, is limited to money withdrawals and deposits, but does not have access to other types of financial operations. Maudos acknowledges the limitation of this study since “it cannot be quantified how many hours or days they have access to these services.” However, he argues that it serves to get an idea of access to cash. “It is impossible to reach the whole world, they would be ineffective and inefficient measures”, he stressed.
With all these data, the IVIE defends that the measures that the banks have been implementing have reduced by almost 900,000 people who would be placed in a context of financial exclusion. “They have been rescued from a potential situation of financial exclusion”, Maudos defended during the presentation.
Employers have avoided making assessments of the data shown in this study. This is a situation analysis report on which you must propose the measures you consider appropriate to reduce the existing gap in access to financial services in Spain. These measures are the ones that must be transferred to the Government in the coming weeks. “We are talking to the Government, working on a plan that is not closed, it is not finalized and we cannot give details,” said María Abascal, general director of the AEB, an employer that includes Santander, BBVA and Sabadell, among other entities. .
This same Tuesday, the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) has issued a report in which it has made a series of recommendations to improve care for citizens in rural areas, especially access to cash withdrawal. Among other measures, he has stated that a framework should be adopted that promotes the withdrawal of cash in commerce. “It would facilitate the extension of cash access points and the financial inclusion of those who do not have a nearby ATM”, explained the CNMC.
In the case of the ‘cashback’ system, when the customer buys a product in a store and pays for it with his bank card or through an application, he can ask the seller to charge him the purchase price plus an amount. That additional amount will be returned to you in cash. In the case of ‘cash-in-shop’, it is not necessary to link the cash withdrawal to a purchase.
In addition, the CNMC has recalled that public support for cash access systems in rural areas can be done through public tenders and the granting of aid, which must not distort competition. In this regard, the CNMC has explained that public measures to encourage the installation of ATMs and other alternative cash access systems must be governed by the principles of efficient economic regulation and promote competition to achieve the best results.
The CNMC has included in its study a series of conclusions in relation to the problems faced by the most vulnerable people in terms of financial exclusion. Among others, the Commission has highlighted the reduction of ATMs, which has fallen by 23% in the last 15 years, or the low implementation of alternative systems, more developed in other European countries. In addition, regarding the access that people who live in rural environments have to withdraw cash, the CNMC has mentioned that 55% of the municipalities lack ATMs.
Finally, it points to digitization as one of the reasons why fewer and fewer people choose to use cash, with the percentage of people using this method falling from 80% in 2014 to 36% in 2021.