Falling revenues and greater use of online and mobile banking have led Banco Santander to announce layoffs and the closure of 425 branches in Spain, representing 10% of the total in the country.
Bank officials said the exact number of firings has not been decided yet. Some unions are estimating that figure to be somewhere between 850 and 1,100 people.
The move is part of a network reorganization by Santander, which plans to have 1,000 large branches with around eight employees in each one within three years.
This type of large bank branch is commonplace in other European countries, particularly in Germany
This year, Santander plans to have 350 such offices up and running. Some of the employees from the closing branches will be transferred to the bigger premises, said the lender.
Santander told the unions that it is trying to eliminate the smaller branches that only perform mechanical transactions, as customers increasingly do that on their computers and mobile devices.
EL PAÍS English Edition is launching a weekly newsletter. Sign up today to receive a selection of our best stories in your inbox every Saturday morning. For full details about how to subscribe, click here.
The lender wants to move employees to bigger branches that will focus on providing clients with personal advice, and create more opportunities for selling them complex products with higher commissions for the bank.
This type of large bank branch is commonplace in other European countries, particularly in Germany.
Some union sources said that the move also aims to bring in fresh blood at the staff and management levels.
In 2014, Santander offered early retirement to 2,011 employees, most of whom were branch workers. The Spanish group has been led by Ana Botín ever since her father, Emilio Botín, died in September of that year.
English version by Susana Urra.