BRUSSELS (AP) — Dutch banking group ING said Monday that it is slashing 7,000 jobs in Belgium and the Netherlands as the company focuses on online services in the face of growing competition.
ING said in a statement that some 3,500 full-time jobs would disappear in Belgium by 2021 and 2,300 in the Netherlands. Almost 1,000 jobs would be lost among ING's external suppliers.
At the same time, the company says it will invest 800 million euros ($899 million) in its "digital transformation in order to further improve customer experience." It hopes that improved efficiency will allow it to save around 900 million euros by 2021.
The investment will help to expand services in Germany and to reach markets in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Spain. In contrast, about 1,250 ING and Record Bank agencies in Belgium are to close.
ING posted an underlying profit of more than 4.2 billion euros in 2015, up 23 percent from the previous year.
ING's cuts come amid broader problems in Europe's banking sector. Some have struggled to restructure their businesses since the financial crisis. Others, like Deutsche Bank, face big regulatory fines, and some are loaded with bad investments.
In a Twitter message, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel offered "all my support to ING workers. The bank must assume all of its responsibilities. I am meeting the trade unions this afternoon."
Belgium has been rocked by a series of cutbacks and closures, notably the decision last month by U.S. heavy equipment maker Caterpillar to close shut a plant with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs.