top of page

Leading a consumer bank through the coronavirus pandemic

The implications of the COVID-19 crisis are profound for consumer and small-business banks, and the steps they take now will shape operations long into the future. Here is where to start.

How consumer and small-business banks respond to the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on customers, employees, and, indeed, the economy at large. As deposit gatherers, credit guarantors, and payment facilitators, these banks are among the financial institutions most personally connected to the public.

Serving customers in challenging times

Delivering on customer expectations while adapting the operating model to the reality of the current pandemic will be an unprecedented challenge for banks. In our view, it is highly important for banks to make their genuine concern for their customers clear and to make customer interactions with the bank as easy as possible.

Show customers that you care for them

In contrast with 2008, when people widely considered banks to be the source of the financial crisis, banks around the world are today seeking to be part of the solution—and redefining what it means to support their customers. They are taking measures to minimize negative financial effects on customers, provide broader counseling, and lead community-support efforts. The following are some of the actions that leading banks can take to show their concern for customers:

  • Offer payment holidays and temporary relief. Bank customers are facing extraordinary financial stress. In response, most banks are starting to waive interest charges and suspend late-account fees for customers who request such changes for coronavirus-related relief. For example, Goldman Sachs is allowing Apple Card users to skip March payments. Financial is allowing automobile-loan and mortgage customers to delay payments by 90 to 120 days. We expect to see more of these actions across the industry in the coming days and weeks.

  • Provide financial-fitness tools and help lines.In the face of so much uncertainty, bank customers will have financial questions or simply need reassurance. Banks should anticipate these and embed more financial-fitness tools and dialogue in their client interactions. They should, in particular, direct individuals to their online financial-fitness tools and make those tools available on their website landing pages—and promote personal engagement and program chatbots accordingly. We believe that banks should start reaching out to clients proactively to discuss financial-fitness tools, starting with the customers most at risk in the current environment. Additionally, bank managers should create opportunities for human interactions for distraught customers who just want to talk through their concerns and establish help lines for customers who need support during remote (mobile or internet) transactions.

  • Serve in unexpected ways.Especially during a crisis, customers don’t always know what they will need until that need is pressing. Finding that their bank is prepared to help in unexpected ways will go a long way toward reassuring them. Financial institutions could take inspiration from the actions a few banks in China have taken (Exhibit 2). There, many banks went above and beyond their financial commitments to cater to their customers’ growing medical needs during the epidemic. For example, China Construction Bank partnered with China’s Department of Civil Affairs to launch a digital platform to help local community managers monitor the number of people affected by coronavirus in their specific geographies. The platform also helps residents and employees input basic personal information to apply for return to work. Additionally, it allows them to stay connected with other open-banking platforms, such as those for the rural population, medical services, education, and eldercare.



bottom of page