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PRESENTED BY LUNAR

Easier for expats: Danish digital bank opens to non-citizens

Expat life is full of challenges and those living in Denmark often struggle with the language and the weather. You are also required to get a Danish bank account – which can prove more challenging than it sounds.

Easier for expats: Danish digital bank opens to non-citizens
Photo: Lunar

Many Danish banks charge for accounts, debit cards, transfers and more, which can make it difficult for expats to understand and compare the fees.

Now Lunar, a digital bank, is open for the first time to EU citizens living, working and studying in Denmark. You can get a free account and card, as well as doing all your banking in one free app – in English.

Easy onboarding

Setting up a bank account can sometimes feel more difficult than you would expect in today’s digital world. Denmark’s strict recent ‘nedlukning’ (lockdown) has made it even trickier to get many things done.  

Download and try out Lunar's app today – all you need is a Danish mobile number

Digital banking is designed to make life easier – now and in the future. To get a Lunar account, you can apply directly on your mobile without the inconvenience of having to go to a branch.

If you're over 18, an EU citizen (still including British passport holders in 2020) and have a Danish personal registration number and NemID, you can apply. You’ll get a Visa card without annual fees and join 150,000 people who already hold Lunar bank accounts.

If you’re new to Denmark and just learned you need a NemKonto (an account that public authorities can transfer benefits, tax refunds, pensions and so on into), you can relax. You can simply choose in the Lunar app to make your new account your NemKonto.

Photo: Lunar

Track spending – and saving

To keep track of personal finances, it helps to break things down into categories. In the Lunar app, you can just tap ‘Spend’ to see your outgoings divided into groceries, entertainment, personal care and more.

Keep track of all your spending and saving goals by signing up with Lunar

Find it hard to resist compulsive purchases? You can also set category spending limits, for example, a maximum of DKK 2,000 per month on food and drinks.

Choosing to get instant notifications for each purchase can make it even easier to ensure you know how much of your monthly limits you have remaining. You can also pay a bill just by taking a photo.

Digital tracking in real-time can help you control what you spend – and therefore also help you to focus on savings. Whether you are putting money away for gifts, travel or a rainy day, Lunar’s personalised Goals feature allows you to set your own targets and savings rules.

Special features

Virtual cards – which only exist digitally – are a new way of reducing the risk of fraud. They use dynamic security codes that are updated hourly and can be easily deleted whenever you want.

Get a virtual card and much more for free with Lunar's English language app

All Lunar users get a virtual card in the app for free. If you upgrade to Lunar Premium, you can get up to five virtual cards. Other Premium benefits include three bank accounts to help manage your personal finances, as well as worldwide travel and luggage insurance.

Lunar’s other standard features include Benefits, which rewards users with treats, perks and deals from brands covering everything from transport to kitchen equipment. Lunar is also looking to partner with start-ups needing support during the coronavirus pandemic to offer new rewards.

You may have an eye on the future and want a bank that can help you make and manage investments. With Lunar Invest, you can buy and sell stocks with clear fees and no minimum expenditure.

MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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