Grandstand by Alberto Aza

The author ponders on the challenge that has the sector, but that for that matter affect to the company as a whole when confront the challenges of the new economic model

In the last few weeks, have reached special notoriety initiatives citizens that they have put in evidence the difficulties that they have the older people when access the financial services . Before a prolonged context of reductions on the internet of bank branches, this alert group of a possible exclusion risk financial and demands a more customised attention and less digital.

As replaced to these pay claims, the banking has announced a decalogue of shock measures that will be operational within six months. Between these, the area of the schedules of savings bank, the training specific to the staff of branches, the preferential treatment to the senior clients both in personly and telephonically, the improvement of the digital service channels' user-friendliness, or financial education stock to qualify digitally to the older people. It is a code of self regulation that the banking organisations are compelled to fulfill and that it is going to be monitored periodically by the Ministry of the Economy and the Banco de España to assess its effectiveness.

The ambition of these measures and the consensi reached for its starting up, demonstrate the commitment of the companies with senior’ clients ‘in the understanding of that the improvement of the quality of service owes be the only way of understanding the banking business.

However, and although this clash plan will contribute to strengthen the service to the older people, in essence, the problem to solve goes beyond the field of action of the banking. As happens with other essential services, the access of older people to the banking services is a complex question in which intervene multiple factors and interdependencies and, therefore, can not reduce, only, to a sectorialproblem. Less still in a country as ours, where the transformation of the banking of last years has allowed that we have a level of inclusion financial of the highest ones of the world.

In fact, in Spain the access to the financial services is guaranteed thanks to the effort of the companies for diversifying its customer service service channels. Results pertinent to enumerate them here because its number is significant: physical branches, mobile banking, online banking, telephone banking, ATMs, mobile offices, financial agents, and non banking agents. In total eight different service channels, comprehensive, complementary and insurance miles away of the only option that they had the clients some years ago when the attention was centred, exclusively, in the physical branch. In addition, some of these service channels punctuate especially good in the international rankings. Spain is the second country of the Euro area, for behind France, with the greater number of branches by inhabitant; something like that happens with the network of ATMs, comparable in density to that one of Germany and exceeding comfortably the European average; our banking emphasises also for being the second one more digitised of the world.

In view of the previous thing, seems reasonable to state that there is not a structural problem in the provision of banking services and that the client has today more options to access the same that never. This appearance results especially relevant because, without her, is easy to fall in the temptation of blaming to the banking of the risk of financial exclusion when, for that matter, the epicentre of the problem it is necessary to search it next world. Specifically, in the unstoppable advance of our companies' digitisation – accelerated after the pandemic – and in the inexorable depopulation of the rural environment.

It is witted that the digitisation supposes significant advantages both for the users and for the suppliers of digital services. For the first offers the opportunity of accessing a highest bidder of products and services, effortlessly, efficient and chest of drawers and in many cases, to a lower cost; for the seconds, allows enriching the experience of the client, expand markets and earn in operational efficiency. Unfortunately, the digitisation entails also costs in terms of digital gap for the citizens that they lack the technological knowledge or resources necessary. It is a generalised challenge in all the existing societies that stresses transversely in a multitude of sectors, not only the banking, and affects especially to the older people. We are, therefore, before a challenge of national domain that requires an all-inclusive reply of the authorities with the collaboration of the private sector when is possible.

The depopulation of the rural environment, an especially intense phenomenon in our country, also is in the origin of the question that us squatter because in the municipalities of the Spain emptied reside basically older people . In this case, to the lack of digital abilities in these towns it is necessary to sum the difficulties of public and private actors to maintain the essential provision of services since the clients' unstoppable exodus finishes undermining the feasibility of the model of attention in person. The banking, is not unaware of this reality and, for this reason, the branches are seen dry and sweet to the close, as very probably have done it earlier the schools, the health centres or the drugstores. Obvious to say, that the challenge of the rural depopulation requires also of suitable and ambitious public policies.

According to the described one until now, does not seem well-chosen to expect attribute to the banking the problems generated by a demographic phenomenon as the rural exodus nor attribute him burdens the that a technological externality as the digital gap generates between the senior clients. In fact, is structural challenges of country that they must be resolute with decision if really want preserve the financial inclusion of our elders.

Following on from this, the starting up of the Plan of Recovery, Transformation and Resilience via the European funds owes contemplate as an unique opportunity to move forward towards a digital company more inclusiva and a territorial model more united. Insofar as the public administrations reach this dual purpose, the financial inclusion will be insured beyond the palliative measures that the banking can implement, now and in a future.