After two years in which the pace of closing down branches has slowed, Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) is currently considering a new streamlining plan, sources inform "Globes," in which dozens more branches would be closed down in the coming years.
The final details of the plan will be hammered out during strategic discussions to be held in the final quarter of 2018. Bank Hapoalim said in response, "The bank's management is currently beginning discussions on forming the bank's future strategy. Among other things, the issue of the bank's future structure will be brought up as part of the discussions as well as the future deployment of the network of branches."
Bank Hapoalim is Israel's largest bank with 226 branches around the country - the largest number of branches in Israel. In 2012, Bank Hapoalim had 275 branches and the bank was the first in Israel to introduce a mergers and closures plan more than a decade ago. At the height of the streamlining, the bank was closing more than 10 branches each year. Two years ago, bank Hapoalim decided to slow down the number of branch closures, so that in 2017 only five branches were closed and estimates are that this year too, the number of branch closures will be small.
Meanwhile, Bank Hapoalim's biggest competitor Bank Leumi (TASE: LUMI) has continued its aggressive streamlining and branch closures plan. In 2017, Leumi closed 15 branches, and currently has 181 branches, 20% fewer than Hapoalim.
Now Hapoalim feels the time has come to put its foot back on the accelerator in terms of closing branches. The only fly in the ointment is that many Hapoalim customers have been complaining about the amount of closures, finding it inconvenient to carry out some transactions online or using apps. Leumi has addressed this problem by opening digital branches, which are much cheaper to maintain than regular branches. It will be interesting to see if Hapoalim adopts a similar approach.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 6, 2018
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