The number of bank branches in the EU declined by a further 5,900 or 3.1% last year to about 183,000, according to a report published by the European Banking Federation (EBF).

According to the report, bank branch numbers have dropped by nearly 21% or by almost 50,000 compared to 2007 with Spanish banks leading the way, having closed over 18,000 branches.

The report also says that total number of credit institutions in the EU declined by 31% since 2008.

The number of staff associated with the credit institutions also fell to their lowest level. At the end of 2017, approximately 2.74 million people are working in the industry, compared to 2.78 million a year ago and 3.13 million in 2009.

The EBF banking report added that the contraction of the physical presence across the continent signifies that branch network is gradually losing importance due to rise in digital services.

Furthermore, the EBF banking report found that the EU non-performing loans (NPLs) dropped significantly in the last few years.

The NPL stocks ratio, which touched 7.5% in 2012, stood at 3.7% last year.

EBF head of banking supervision Gonzalo Gasos said: “European banks are clearly making significant progress on NPLs. Although there is still room for improvement, it should also be clear that the problem no longer is as big as it used to be.

“The question we now face is whether we really need additional European regulation that forces banks to undersell NPLs and that would leave bank clients worse off.”

In 2017, the total deposits from businesses and households touched €16.3tn, an increase of 2.5% compared to 2016.