Not all transactions can be carried out at ATMs. / sur

Malaga has lost half its bank branches in the past decade

Nearly half of the 103 municipalities in the province have no banking facilities

JAVIER LÓPEZ MALAGA.

Curro Jiménez has become the nearest thing that Algatocín has to a bank employee. This 43-year-old works in the local Guadalinfo office, but receives a constant stream of requests for help from people wanting to access their online banking.

“I’m familiar with this technology, but older people are finding it very difficult,” he told SUR, but sometimes even he encounters problems. “I have a problem with my credit card at the moment and I’m going to have to go to Ronda, which is a 40-minute drive, to sort it out,” he said.

There are 103 municipalities in Malaga province and Algatocín, with a population of around 900, is one of the 48 with no bank. “We lost the local branch about a year ago and it is causing problems,” Jiménez said. The isolation does not help. “The time of the bus to Ronda has changed. Now it leaves early in the morning and comes back at 6pm. That means that elderly people have to spend the whole day there, they have no choice,” he said.

A few months ago Algatocín council installed an ATM so villagers could withdraw cash from their accounts, but it costs the local authority 900 euros a month. “The more it’s used, the cheaper it is to rent. We’re paying half the initial amount now,” the mayor, José Manuel López, said.

The lack of banking facilities is not only a problem inland. Algarrobo, on the east coast of Malaga, for example, has lost half of its branches since 2015, but the mayor, Alberto Pérez, says it is not too badly off. “We still have two, and it isn’t difficult to get to Vélez-Malaga, where there are still plenty of banks, from here,” he said.

In fact, Vélez currently has 29 bank branches, but this is 33% fewer than seven years ago. Elsewhere in the province, Marbella has lost 42% of its banks, Antequera 41%, Fuengirola and Estepona 40%, Torremolinos 39% and Rincón de la Victoria 36% and Malaga city 36%.

Altogether, 51.8% of bank branches in Malaga province have disappeared in the past ten years, according to the Bank of Spain, from 1,167 in 2012 to 563 this summer.

Elsewhere in Spain, Tarragona has lost 67.9%, Barcelona 66.8%, Castellón 62%, while in Cuenca 25.7% of branches have closed, 31% in Teruel and 32.2% in Albacete.

Financial crisis changed everything

Other statistics from the Bank of Spain show that the peak time for Malaga province was in the summer of 2008, when 1,407 bank branches were open, but then the financial crisis began in the USA and spread, and since then the number has fallen to around the same level as 48 years ago.

“We understand that banks are companies and it all comes down to figures, but it is hard for small villages,” said Curro Jiménez. However, Algatocín will soon have a second ATM which has more facilities, such as barcode scanners so people can pay their bills.

Jiménez is expecting a lot of requests for assistance when that happens. “People are going to need to learn how to use it, so that is where I come in,” he said, cheerfully.