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payment breaks

Banks see calls rise 400% as customers seek support amid Covid-19 crunch

Banks are far busier but visits to branches have dropped significantly.

IRELAND’S BANKS HAVE experienced a 400% increase in calls from customers seeking financial support and an average of 7,000 calls a day about mortgage payment breaks since the Covid-19 crisis caused thousands of people to lose their jobs.

Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) said the inquiries are a mixture of requests for payment breaks and people seeking information about potential payment issues in the future.

The industry lobby group noted that the volume of calls increased dramatically last Thursday after Ireland’s main banks jointly announced a payment break.

It said that in some cases payment break instructions have gone from 10-15 per week to 800-900 per day.

The level of interest has increased dramatically in just six months, as there were less than 1,000 payment breaks in operation across the banking sector at the end of September, 2019.

The BFPI figures reveal that Ireland’s banks are receiving approximately 500 calls a day from business customers seeking payment breaks or modifications. Credit applications from businesses have also surged by up to 400%.

Call volumes from SMEs have increased fivefold and are easily exceeding 1,000 calls per day. The lobby is planning an advertising campaign in the coming days to communicate key details to customers.

However, banks haven’t been busy across the board as the public health emergency has seen the number of people visiting branches drop significantly.

Those customers have clearly moved online as the Covid-19 pages of banks’ websites have racked up tens of thousands of hits. Banks are also reporting large volumes of online applications for financial products.

In response to the huge swell in demand banks are reallocating staff to supporting customers and improving processes for those impacted by Covid-19.

Staff in customer facing roles are typically experiencing between 15% and 25% absence levels which are directly attributable to the virus.

This is made up of leave, sick leave, people in self-isolation and people caring for children or older relatives, as well as some other issues.

“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,”  BPFI CEO Brian Hayes said.

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