Supporting customers during a pandemic
For many people, the difficulties they face don’t stop because we’re in the midst of a pandemic; identifying and continuing to meet their needs is critical.
Like every other business, in line with public health and to stop the spread of the virus, we had to adapt our operations to ensure they remained safe for our customers and our colleagues. That saw many of our colleagues working from home, as well as introducing measures to support the safety of colleagues and customers, including social distancing, so we were able to keep our branch network open to meet customer needs. Our customers’ response to the efforts our colleagues have been making has been incredible.
One story in particular stands out. One of the key aspects of our support for vulnerable customers is helping those who have no fixed address or are the survivors of human trafficking to open a bank account. This enables them to receive regular payments, such as a salary or benefits, and can help with the progression to rehabilitation. The process relies on the person’s case worker accompanying them to their appointment in branch. We’ve worked closely with our charity contacts to adapt our offering to make sure that we can still open these bank accounts despite the challenges of lockdown and social distancing, so that there’s no delay in people being able to start the benefits process.
The first customer who used our adapted walk through process for opening a bank account with no fixed address was a lady who had been homeless for over three years. She has mental and cognitive difficulties and needed a bank account for her disability payments to be paid into. While our normal service has had to be tailored to make sure that individuals aren’t having to spend too long in the branch, this lady was still overwhelmed by the openness and friendliness of the branch staff. As she left the branch, she cheered and clapped, saying thank you and what a fantastic job everyone had done, and how she was going to clap for the branch during the weekly clap.
The lift that gave to our Liverpool branch staff, and the recognition of the difference this simple act would make to this lady’s life, was wonderful. It made me very proud of our organisation – and industry – and the way people, from our legal team to the frontline, have united to find the best and safest solutions for our customers. When we hear stories like this, it makes all the work we put in so worthwhile. Our role as a bank is to be there when people need us and to ensure they’re able to rely on us for support. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to spread that message more widely.
Find out about the Chartered Banker Institute’s free, comprehensive e-learning module on vulnerable customers and how to support them.
Maxine Pritchard is Head of Financial Inclusion and Vulnerability, HSBC UK. Hear more from Maxine in the Summer 2020 issue of Chartered Banker magazine.