Brick-and-mortar banks are under heavy pressure from financial technology as more than 300 bank branches were closed in the past four months and the number of ATMs has been decreasing nationwide, National Business Daily reported on Jan. 29.
Mobile payment through Ali Pay, WeChat Pay, and other third-party payment tools is gaining popularity among customers. Its convenience and 24-hour services are forcing ATMs out, which traditionally shared the same advantages.
Until the end of 2016, the number of ATMs across the country was 924,200, up 6.63 percent, but the growth rate has been cut by three quarters compared with annual growth of 25 percent in 2012 and 2013.
Fewer ATMs are being placed in shopping malls, said a staff at China Everbright Bank, who said that slumping trading profits make covering the high cost of venue rentals at shopping malls harder. Many banks are removing ATMs to cut costs.
Against the reduction of physical banks, the number of bank clerks remains stable in total. For example, the number of employees at Ping An Bank experienced the most significant change in recent years. Early in 2011 and 2012, a booming period, the number of employees increased by 76.01 percent, while in later years, the growth dropped to a steady level below 20 percent.
Large numbers of practitioners are moving toward online financial services, or jumping to new businesses such as securities, trusts, and other non-bank financial institutions.
The use of cash is becoming less frequent, but cash won't disappear in the future ten years, a president of a stock-holding bank, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Economic Observer, adding that automatic withdrawals and deposits might develop into a new industry.
Payments and money transfers can be handled by more mobile platforms. In 2016, more than 17.77 billion financial transactions were conducted off the counter, increasing by 63.68 percent compared with the previous year.
Cashless trading and digitalization have been an irresistible trend, according to Wang Yongli, former vice president of Bank of China.
More banks including Ping An Bank, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and China Construction Bank are in the midst of a transition with digitalization and asset-light strategy at its core, said an insider.