The overall number of banks and credit institutions in the European Union decreased to approximately 4.8 thousand in 2015, from 5.9 thousand in 2009. A decline in bank branch numbers in Europe has also been noted. The highest share of local population per bank branch was observed in Estonia, with one bank branch providing for approximately 12.3 thousand inhabitants. Decline in branch banking is frequently linked with the growing popularity of new banking methods, such as online or mobile banking. However, only 15 percent of European mobile device users were inclined to favor social media in communication with the bank. The share of consumers who already use social media to interact with their bank was highest for Eastern European and Benelux countries.
Overall, total assets of all banking institutions in the euro area amounted to 36.5 trillion U.S. dollars in 2014. Against this backdrop, assets of domestic banking groups in Germany, the leading European economy, reached over 6.65 trillion euros in 2015. The second-ranked were French banks, with 6.56 trillion euros in assets. The largest bank domiciled on the European market affirmed its strong position in 2016: HSCB Holdings, headquartered in London, claimed 2.6 trillion U.S. dollars in total assets, confirming its highest ranking on the European market. The scale was balanced by BNP Paribas (headquartered in Paris) and Deutsche Bank (Frankfurt), ranked second and third, both with over two trillion U.S. dollars in total assets.
European banks have been growing in stability since 2012, under close supervision of the European Central Bank. To ensure further growth of the sector, careful risk management approach was prioritized by 70 percent of surveyed senior bankers as of 2016. Also, the automation of services and investments in technology were considered an important development priority. In 2016, 44 percent of bankers in Spain and in the Netherlands looked towards partnerships or joint ventures as means of providing stability in the sector. However, with Brexit looming on the horizon, the future of financial services and banking in Europe in general, and the role of London as the global financial center in particular, remain unclear.