ING, a European systemic bank that was rescued with €10 billion in 2008, has managed to distance itself in Spain from the reputation problem that concerns the banking employers. The Dutch entered the sector as 'outsiders' in 1999, and their initial operations were conducted over the phone at a time when internet penetration was nowhere near as high as it is today.
Their slow and steady growth in the market has enabled them to have 3.9 million customers in 2019, a figure that still does not allow them to sit at the same table as the major Spanish banks, which have 14 million accounts (Caixabank), 10 million (BBVA), eight (Santander) and seven (Bankia). However, this is fantastic compared to the resources and employees that the Dutch brand has in Spain.
Ultimately, and with all the caveats that must apply to different types of structures, it can be concluded that ING outperforms the client-to-employee ratios of the big Spanish banks, providing service to 3.9 million customers with just 1,419 workers, of which around 2.2 have a salary account. The Dutch bank has 2,748 customers per employee and 1,550 salary accounts per employee. This figure brings them much closer to online banking and leaves them light years ahead of the figures of the big Spanish banks.
The large banks that can be most compared to are Bankia and Caixabank, as the former only has business in Spain, while the latter has the vast majority of business in the local market.
For example, Caixabank will have slightly less than 30,000 employees once its ERE is completed, who will serve about 14 million accounts. This equates to 466 customers per employee. Practically all of Caixabank's business is conducted in Spain, except for the small part of BPI in Portugal. That is why the bank's management presented reports to its employees stating that its workforce was the least productive of the major Spanish banks.
The case of Bankia is even clearer. The public entity has 17,000 employees who serve seven million accounts in Spain. Its business is exclusively national, which means it has a ratio of 411 customers per employee.
This means that if we compare the productivity of ING's workforce in Spain with that of Bankia, we can see that Dutch bank workers serve almost seven (6.6) times more customers than Bankia employees.
This comparison must be taken with caution because it should be noted that ING does not have a Spanish banking license and benefits from central, technological, and regulatory services performed from its headquarters in Amsterdam. That is, part of the cost of employees is not seen in this comparison because the 'headquarters effect' should also be taken into account. But this does not prevent us from observing how the orange bank has managed to position itself in Spain with productivity typical of the new online banks (such as N26 or Revolut), which also have customer-to-employee ratios that ruthlessly outperform traditional banking.
In the case of the two major Spanish international banks, we will also make a comparison, although it should be borne in mind that the headquarters effect is even more important. BBVA will have slightly over 30,000 employees and 10 million accounts in Spain. This gives them a ratio of about 333 customers per employee in Spain, lower than that of BBVA.
In the case of Banco Santander, slightly below 30,000 employees and with its 8 million accounts, they would serve 266 customers per employee in Spain. In both cases, these data should not be taken literally, as both Santander and BBVA are multinational banks that receive the majority of their income from America (Brazil for Santander, Mexico for BBVA).