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BNP Paribas Fortis to close 150 branches in savings drive
BNP Paribas’s Belgian arm plans to save an annual €300 million over the next three years by cutting its workforce by about 10% and closing 150 branches, writes Reuters’ Philip Blenkinsop. BNP Paribas Fortis said customers were making greater use of the internet for banking and needed less face-to-face contact for basic operations, while demanding more meetings with advisors. The company said it would cut 1,800 full-time equivalent posts through natural wastage and would limit new recruitment to 200 full-time posts per year during the period. The bank employed 17,349 people in Belgium last year, with 16,900 full-time equivalent posts. It will close 50 branches this year and a further 100 over the next two years from its current total of 936. Call centre staff will swell from 400 to 500. BNP Paribas said last month that a three-year efficiency drive relying on simplified reporting structures and better technology would bring annual cost savings of €2 billion. France’s number-one bank, BNP Paribas owns 74.93% of BNP Paribas Fortis, the Belgian state 25% and the public 0.07%. It ended up in the French lender’s hands after the 2008 bailout and break-up of Fortis. Last month, Dutch bank ING announced it planned to reduce its headcount in Belgium by 1,000 by 2015 to save €150 million, part of an overall cut of 2,400 positions.