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Banks prioritise Covid-19 impacted customers as volume of calls for mortgage support reaches 7,000 per day

24th March 2020

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) have today outlined the scale of the demand for payment breaks as a direct result of Covid-19 with member banks experiencing a 400% increase in calls seeking financial support including an average of 7,000 calls a day from customers looking for information on mortgage payment breaks.

Speaking about the volume of calls, BPFI CEO Brian Hayes said: “Banks have made it their urgent priority to help those who are financially impacted as quickly as possible and to put their payment break in place, whether the customer is an individual, a family or a business. All banks have dedicated Covid-19 website pages, with banks offering a combination of dedicated phone lines and online applications. All bank systems have been simplified and are running live since Monday morning. Banks worked 24 hours a day over the weekend to make sure new easy to follow application systems were put in place for customers impacted by Covid 19 and the staff helping them to make their application.

There have been monumental changes to manage the flow of calls and applications with customer facing staff working around the clock to help those most impacted. Banks are reallocating non-customer facing staff and all of its customer facing staff to supporting customers and improving processes for those impacted by Covid 19. This covers IT teams, Credit and Risk Teams, Digital Teams and Operations Teams. Naturally, banks are also experiencing reduced staff numbers because of a variety of Covid-19 related circumstances, impacting anything from 15% to 25% of staff in some cases.

BPFI are planning an advertising campaign in the coming days in association with the five retail banks to communicate key detail to customers and to highlight that priority is being given to those impacted by Covid-19.”

Facts on Calls

Estimated daily calls re mortgage payment breaks are 7,000 (mix of queries about the future and requests for actual payment breaks)

  • 400% increase in calls seeking support since middle of March (Mar 17th)
  • Biggest surge in calls came last Thursday after the banks jointly announced a payment break
  • In some cases, Payment Break Instructions have gone from 10-15 per week to 800-900 per day.
  • In contrast – there were less than 1,000 moratoria/payment breaks in total up to end September 2019.

Business Landscape

  • Estimated daily business customer calls seeking payment breaks/modifications is 500/day
  • Estimated increase in Business Credit Applications – 300% – 400%
  • SME call volumes have doubled per day and exceeding the one thousand mark (easily) per day
  • Overall fivefold increase in calls to banks’ SME lines overall
  • Huge surge since the second week of March with thousands of SMEs contact banks since the beginning of the Covid-19 escalation.

Features of Calls & Online Activity

  • Tens of thousands of visits to the Covid-19 website pages
  • Branches down – footfall has reduced from initial rush down 20%-24% (APPROX WEEK ON WEEK)
  • People using branches less and less
  • Where online application firms are available, banks are seeing large number using the online facilities – in the thousands in recent days.
  • On line information, digital forms supporting reduction in branch footfall
  • Customers continue to avail of digital channels to carry-out their banking needs. We are seeing above average levels of usage with millions of logins across Mobile, Internet Banking

Employees

  • Monumental changes to manage the flow of calls and applications.
  • Banks reallocating non-customer facing staff and all of its customer facing staff to supporting customers and improving processes for those impacted by Covid 19. This covers Central Teams, IT teams, Credit and Risk Teams, Digital Teams, Operations Teams, Communications Teams and Change Teams. Could be close to 50% reallocation in some cases.
  • Change has involved designing new processes, making new product enhancements available and training staff on how to manage these queries in a very short period of time.
  • A number of colleagues working on the priority lines are working long hours to ensure customer requests are facilitated.
  • Banks have relocated staff across a multiple of buildings to spread our building concentration risk and have remote working from home where practical.
  • Staff are being very flexible and taking on different roles to facilitate customer needs
  • Customer facing areas are typically experiencing between 15% – 20% – 25% absence levels directly attributable to Covid19 which is made up of leave / sick leave / carers and self-isolation/ partners in health care jobs/ caring for children or older relatives.
  • Colleagues cancelling holidays to support the call centres
  • Colleagues on part time contracts offering to extend hours
  • Flexibility from colleagues in role (advisors on floor; taking and making follow up calls)
  • In order to meet the recommended HSE social distancing criteria the number of colleagues in each building needed to reduce significantly
  • Calls can be longer – an average 5 mins longer than usual at on average 18 mins – naturally given the issues and the pressure people are under.

 

Notes: Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) represents the banking, payments and fintech sector in Ireland.  Together with its affiliates, the Federation of International Banks in Ireland and the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland, BPFI has some 100 member institutions and associates, including licensed domestic and foreign banks and institutions operating in the financial marketplace here.

Contact: Jillian Heffernan, Head of Communications, 087 9016880 or jillian.heffernan@bpfi.ie

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