With the coronavirus reaching pandemic status and sparking health and economic fears around the world, the banking industry has responded quickly with plans aimed at ensuring the safety of customers and staff. The industry has also collaborated to help customers feeling the economic impact of the crisis. SmartBrief caught up with Consumer Bankers Association President and CEO Richard Hunt to learn more about the industry’s efforts.
You attended the meeting at the White House last week. What was the mood like in the room? What were some of the key action items?
The mood in the room was serious, focused and the main topic of conversation was what banks are doing to help their customers and small businesses.
What are banks doing to protect the health and safety of customers?
Banks have taken a variety of steps ranging from increased branch and ATM cleaning to increased reliance on drive-through tellers. Many CBA members have proactively reached out to customers to remind them about online and mobile banking capabilities.
How are banks helping customers navigate any financial hardships brought on by this crisis?
Banks are moving heaven and earth to help customers and we appreciate the flexibility regulators have given us over the last week. Some of the steps being undertaken include allowing for short-term flexibility in loan repayment, as well as increasing withdrawal limits at ATM machines; waiving some regular fees and penalties; and increasing credit card limits. Flexibility is the key word banks are using to help customers.
What are banks doing to protect staff while continuing to serve customers?
Protecting team members is second only to helping customers. Many banks have altered branch hours, increased flexibility when it comes to working remotely and are splitting shifts to reduce the number of employees in an office at any one time.
Are you seeing any branch closures as a result of coronavirus?
Both the physical and financial health of consumers is a top priority and banks are open for business. You might see some locations shfting to drive-thru only to reduce crowds in accordance with the guidance of health care officials. Others bank branches have adopted altered hours so employees, whose health is also a priority for banks, can care for their families. Here is the bottom line: The overwhelming majority of branches in the U.S. are open and if you need to speak with a bank representative, even if the lobby is not open, they can set up a time to speak with you.
Do you think this situation will ultimately lead to even greater adoption of online banking?
More than 80% of Americans have a mobile phone and banks have invested heavily in technology. The capabilities are there and many Americans already use mobile or online banking for everyday transactions. I think there will be an uptick in online banking and customers of the largest banks – the ones who have already invested in digital banking – will see a huge benefit from their bank’s investment as customers discover the full array of options available to them.