The BPFI’s Chief Executive Brian Hayes, speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday View programme, confirmed that 28,000 mortgage payment breaks had been processed or are in the middle of being processed, just over one week after the initiative had been announced.
He also confirmed that between 8,000 and 10,000 payment breaks for SMEs were also granted or were in the process of being granted to those impacted by Covid-19.
“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,” he’d stated earlier, “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.”
The joint bank plan by the five retail banks was announced nearly two weeks ago with daily calls to the call centres reaching highs of 7,000 calls a day initially.
Banks have been re-allocating up to 50% of their staff in some cases, updating websites and introducing new online facilities to manage the huge volumes of applications and queries being received. And they’ve also now ensured that new easy-to-follow application systems are in place for customers impacted by Covid-19.
“Banks have been reallocating non-customer-facing staff and all of its customer-facing staff to supporting customers and improving processes for those impacted by Covid 19,” he said, “This covers Central Teams, IT teams, Credit and Risk Teams, Digital Teams, Operations Teams, Communications Teams and Change 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.”
There has been a 400% increase in calls seeking support since March 17th with the biggest surge in calls coming on Thursday 19th March after the banks jointly announced a payment break.
“Monumental changes” have been introduced to manage the flow of calls and applications which have 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, stated the BPFI.
In some cases Payment Break Instructions went from 10 or 15 per week to 800-900 per day. In contrast there were less than 1,000 moratoria/payment breaks in total up to the end of September last year.
The increase in Business Credit Applications is estimated at 300% – 400%.
Generally speaking, SME call volumes doubled by the day, easily exceeding 1,000 per day according to the BPFI.
There has been an overall five-fold increase in calls to banks’ SME lines and a huge surge since the second week of March with thousands of SMEs contacting banks since the beginning of the Covid-19 escalation.
The BPFI also reported tens of thousands of visits to the Covid-19 website pages and with branches down, footfall has reduced by approximately 20% to 24% week-on-week from the initial rush.
Thus people are using branches less and less.
Where online application forms are available, banks are seeing large numbers using the online facilities – in the thousands in recent days.
Thus online information and digital forms have supported a reduction in branch footfall.
And customers continue to avail of digital channels to carry out their banking needs with the BPFI seeing above-average levels of usage with millions of logins across mobile/internet banking.