Swedbank Does U-Turn on Local Branch Closures ({{commentsTotal}})

The head offices of Swedbank Estonia.
The head offices of Swedbank Estonia. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

The nation's largest bank has backtracked on a decision to close nine offices in small towns and settlements on July 1, but will still close cash operations in the branches.

“Ninety-eight percent of all cash operations are conducted by machines, but we understand that there are people for whom this means a change to their habits and who will need assistance,” Swedbank CEO Priit Perens said.

The branches, all of which are equipped with ATMs both for withdrawals and depositing, could move to premises owned by local municipalities.

The bank said they will open talks with the government on the subject of banking services in low-population areas and popularizing e-services.

Economy Minister Urve Palo said she plans to assemble a working group of bank, local government and state institution representatives to seek ways of continuing to offer services in rural areas.

Swedbank came under much criticism at the end of May, when announcing the an end to cash operations at its Haapsalu, population 10,000, branch, with a regional director saying the town is of marginal importance in Estonia. Local leaders then called for a boycott of Swedbank.

This week's backtrack is separate from the Haapsalu issue.