Big banks rush to support customers as nation wrestles with the delta COVID strain

Big banks have moved quickly to offer support to customers hit hard by restrictions designed to get on top of the rapid spread of the delta strain of coronavirus.

Australia’s biggest bank, the Commonwealth, is leading a charge with moves such as free overdrafts for small businesses, home loan deferrals and an extension to the agreement not to evict customers from their homes.

Since the heavier restrictions were announced for Sydney on the weekend, Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn said calls to the bank’s support lines had doubled.

“Most of the people ringing in were wanting to know what their options are, particularly if things were to go beyond a couple of weeks,” he told Australian Financial Review.

CBA says it will email customers in the locked down local government areas of Sydney and also its customers who work in the locked down construction and retail sectors to inform them of the relief available.

“There is a lot of concern and uncertainty, so we want to give people confidence and provide assurances there is support available to help get them through the next couple of months,” Mr Comyn told AFR.

The National Australia Bank is among some employers keen to vaccinate staff on their premises, to be run by the same system that implements annual flu jabs.

“We need to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible and when people get the opportunity, they should take it,” NAB CEO Ross McEwan told AFR.

“It is the only way I can see to getting back to normal freedoms.”

At the NAB calls to assistance lines rose by around 10 per cent at the back end of last week and Mr McEwan expects that number to keep rising this week.

“With the longer period of lockdown in Sydney we expect that number to go up – but by what we don’t know,” he said.

Most major banks are saying they are confident if the lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney can be relatively short and the virus contained, then the economy will get right back on track once restrictions are lifted.


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