Changes in bank office statistics in 2021
Significant decline in number of credit institutions – further substantial number of branch closures
The consolidation process in the German banking sector, which has been going on for many years now, continued at a faster pace in 2021. Over the course of the year, the overall number of credit institutions fell by 160 to 1,519. One major reason for this decline is that 71 (retroactively corrected from 59) former securities trading banks and branches of foreign securities trading firms are classed as securities institutions due to the entry into force of the Investment Institutions Act (Wertpapierinstitutsgesetz or WpIG) on 26 June 2021 and are therefore no longer credit institutions within the meaning of the German Banking Act (Kreditwesengesetz or KWG). Even without this effect, however, the decline is 5.3%, compared with a drop of just 2.2% in 2020. This is partly attributable to a total of 54 mergers (34 in the previous year), mainly in the cooperative sector, and 43 departures, predominantly branches of UK securities trading banks owing to Brexit on 1 January 2021.
The number of domestic branches fell significantly by almost 10%. As in the previous year, the coronavirus pandemic and the increasing prevalence of online banking closely related to it are likely to have served as a catalyst here. Additionally, there was again extensive restructuring in the big bank sector.
“In view of the clouds gathering in the banking sky due to the interest rate reversal, weaker growth and inflation, banks are well advised to build up their resilience through cost awareness and, where appropriate, mergers," says Professor Joachim Wuermeling, the Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for banking supervision. His assessment is that the marked decline in the number of institutions and branches is a sign of the unabated momentum of the German banking system’s consolidation and restructuring process.
Change in the number of credit institutions
In 2021, there were 14 additions and 174 departures across all credit institutions. Of these departures, 45 (2020: 26) were attributable to mergers in the cooperative sector. Taking into account two further departures of other institutions in the cooperative sector due to the Investment Institutions Act, the number of cooperative institutions fell to 772, representing a drop of 5.7%. In the savings banks sector, mergers caused the number of institutions to fall by 6 (2020: 3), leaving 371 savings banks alongside 6 Landesbanken (the number of which did not change).
The number of commercial banks decreased quite significantly by 105 institutions net to 261 in 2021; primarily the number of branches falling under “Branches of foreign banks and securities trading banks” declined from 181 to just 107 at the end of 2022. There were 10 additions versus 84 departures; 43 of those alone were attributable to branches of UK credit institutions owing to the entry into force of Brexit on 1 January 2021. A large number of these branches had not yet ceased making use of EU passporting arrangements at the end of 2020, meaning that they will not be counted as departures until 2021. Since the entry into force of the Investment Institutions Act with effect from 26 June 2021, a further 38 branches of foreign securities trading firms – mainly from the EU – are no longer counted as credit institutions.
As a result of the new Investment Institutions Act, there were 31 departures of former securities trading banks in the “Regional and securities trading banks and other commercial banks” sector, which as investment institutions no longer fall under the scope of Section 1 of the Banking Act and are therefore no longer to be regarded as credit institutions within the meaning of the bank office statistics. Following 4 further departures, individual regroupings and 4 additions, this group of banks still encompassed 151 institutions at the end of 2021 (182 in the previous year). There are still 3 big banks.
Furthermore, credit institutions and guarantee banks saw one departure each.
Number of domestic branches once again down very sharply
Number of domestic branches once again down very sharply   underwent a significant contraction in 2021, too, decreasing by 2,388, or 9.9%, to 21,712 after falling by 2,567 in the year before. This development reflects the impact of digitalisation on distribution channels due to greater use of online banking as well as cost-cutting measures undertaken in a challenging competitive environment.
A net decline in the number of branches was again observed in all sectors of the banking industry.
The decrease in the number of branches at big banks by 1,109 (-21.6%) to 4,037 was especially significant. This figure represents 18.6% of the total number of branches. In particular, Deutsche Bank AG reduced its branch network by more than one-fifth to 3,115 (-867), while Commerzbank AG closed 243 – or more than one in four – domestic branches in 2021. According to the plans published by the banks to date, this trend will continue. The regional banks’ branch network was cut by 148 branches, leaving 1,013.
All in all, commercial banks had reduced the number of their branches by 1,279 (2020: -1,155) to 5,199 by the end of 2021. This corresponds to an overall share of 23.9% – this was 26.9% one year earlier.
Branch numbers were also cut by 617 to 7,911 in the savings bank sector (including Landesbanken). However, with a share of 36.4%, this sector still has the largest number of domestic branches.
In the cooperative sector, the number of branches fell by 468 to 7,310 (share of domestic branches: 33.7%).
Slight decreases were likewise recorded among building and loan associations, with the number of branches of private building and loan associations down by 12 to leave 780 and those of public building and loan associations by 8 to leave 459. The number of branches in the “Other” category (excluding building and loan associations) stood at 53 (see Table 2).
Following reclassification of the former securities trading banks, decline in foreign branches; number of foreign subsidiaries down slightly
The number of subsidiaries of German banks domiciled abroad fell slightly by 83 to 79 at the end of 2021 (see Table 3), representing a total decline of 4.8%. The German big banks kept their foreign network relatively stable (62; -1). By comparison, the other categories are represented only to a minor extent (regional banks: 8 foreign subsidiaries, DZ BANK: 4, Landesbanken: 3).
Owing to the reclassification of the former securities trading banks, which still had 21 foreign branches last year, the number of branches of German credit institutions abroad fell significantly for the first time in years, by 18 to 255 (-6.6%). The above-mentioned decline could not be offset by the opening of foreign branches – primarily in other EU countries – by some internationally active banks operating throughout Europe from Germany following Brexit.
Nearly three-quarters of all foreign branches as well as around 47% of foreign subsidiaries are located in Europe, mainly in EU Member States (see Table 3). As at year-end 2021, 22 foreign branches (2020: 25) and 5 foreign subsidiaries (same as in 2020) were still located in the United Kingdom, even following the completion of Brexit.
- Branches pursuant to Section 24(1a) number 4 of the German Banking Act. Branches that only provide automated banking or financial services are not included here.
- Figures for Deutsche Bank AG also include the partner branches of the former Deutsche Postbank AG.
- Equity interest of more than 50% in a foreign credit institution.