Deutsche Bank plans to close one in five branches in Germany as it seeks to save costs and capitalise on the changing habits of customers during the coronavirus pandemic, an executive said. 

Philipp Gossow, who oversees the retail banking business in Germany, told Reuters that the reduction to some 400 branches from around 500 currently would occur mainly in urban locations and take place "as quickly as possible". 

The cull comes as Deutsche Bank undergoes a broad overhaul of its global operations that began in 2019 after years of losses. 

German banks traditionally operate large numbers of branches compared with those in the Netherlands or Britain, where customers are more comfortable with digital banking. 

Banks throughout Europe are rethinking their branch strategies in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

Deutsche's rival Commerzbank recently opted to shut 200 of its 1,000 branches and is considering closing hundreds more. 

"Coronavirus has further changed the demands placed on advisory services and the branch business," Gossow said. 

"Even customers who were previously not very familiar with online banking are now doing many simple banking transactions from home on their computer or iPad," he said.

Gossow said more complex advisory services were taking place increasingly by phone or video chat and the bank would invest an undisclosed amount to build out those services. 

He elaborated on the changes today at a conference in Frankfurt and in a memo to staff, in which he acknowledged the changes would mean hardship for some. 

But the move is not expected to meet strong resistance from employees.

The Verdi labour union said in a statement it was "generally right" for Deutsche to review its branch network.