PARIS Feb 21 France's second-biggest retail
bank BPCE announced plans on Tuesday to trim and reorganise its
branch network and invest in online banking, as it targets
annual cost savings of 1 billion euros ($1.1 bln) by 2020.
French banks have cut staff and reduced the number of
branches, while investing in online services to counter low-cost
competitors, as low interest rates have hurt profits.
BPCE said it would shut 5 percent of its branches, and
replace slightly less than two-thirds of an expected 11,000
employee departures through natural attrition over 2017-2020.
The plan to merge and simplify the organizational structure
of its regional banks would result in 750 million euros of "cost
savings in a full year by the end of 2020".
This comes on top of 250 million euros in cost savings,
announced by its investment bank Natixis last year.
At the group level, BPCE said it would invest 790 million
euros in the transformation plan in order "to generate savings
worth 1 billion euros in a full year in 2020".
It said it would launch online selling of home loans,
quicken the opening of current account and introduce fingerprint
recognition technology to simplify access to online banking
By 2020 it expects 90 percent of its customers to be using
online banking, up from 75 percent currently.
BPCE acquired one of Germany's best-known online banks Fidor
in July last year. It plans to launch the services in France
this year and to cover "principal European markets" by 2020.
BPCE was formed by a state-backed merger of French regional
banks Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne in 2009, a move
aimed at preventing their investment banking business Natixis
from collapsing during the financial crisis.
($1 = 0.9491 euros)
(Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by