By: Jacques Celliers, Chief Executive Officer
In recent weeks, the South African Government, business community, philanthropists and society at large have shown remarkable unity in a joint effort to protect our country against the impact of COVID-19.
Working in unison with stakeholders, National Government made a prudent decision to invoke a 21-day national lockdown. As part of this decision, Government assured the country that essential banking services will remain available and this was reiterated by the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA).
As a financial services provider and corporate citizen with over 40 000 staff, thousands of suppliers and millions of customers, this is a responsibility we do not take for granted. Consequently, we have been working tirelessly to reconfigure operations where necessary to operate efficiently and to help customers, especially those whose financial position has been impacted by COVID-19.
Our aim is to ensure that all our customers can continue keeping their financial affairs in order through this difficult time and we believe that our ability to service customers through multiple market-leading digital channels has provided relative comfort to customers to continue managing their day-to-day-banking, investing, credit and insurance needs.
As we escalate our efforts to help customers, we are pleased to announce that from 1 April – 30 June 2020 we will implement measures to provide relief to individual and business customers whose financial stability has been impacted by COVID-19. Our interventions will assist customers who demonstrate sound banking behavior, such as having honoured their repayments to the bank on a consistent basis prior to COVID-19.
For those customers that qualify, our COVID-19 interventions will be for all products with us, and they will be available for a period of three months, covering the following:
- Instalment cashflow relief, during which part or no instalments/repayments will be due for a specific period;
- A preferential interest rate will apply to the COVID19 relief interventions given;
- No fees will be charged for any relief granted;
- Assistance with processing credit insurance claims, where possible;
- Individualised bridge facilities for those who need it.
Interest and fees will continue to accumulate on outstanding balances. Individuals and business customers can contact us via their usual digital and assisted banking channels to enquire about these services. During this week, customers will also be able to get more information on our current COVID-19 relief measures through a dedicated icon on the landing page of our banking App.
At the same time together with the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) and the banking industry we are assessing potential financial solutions for those customers who do not qualify under the current criteria. We encourage all customers who can honour their financial obligations to continue servicing their repayments.
In addition to our efforts to help with financial relief, we have prioritised early invoice settlements for suppliers across the FirstRand Group and over R1 billion has been processed in the last few days. We are committed to continue expediting payments to local suppliers to help improve their financial stability. FNB has also made a significant contribution to FirstRand’s SPIRE initiative announced today contributing, alongside the FirstRand Foundations and RMB, to the group’s total anchor funding of R100m. Through SPIRE, FNB is also providing critical operational capacity (including its payments and governance platforms) to help the healthcare system scale its response to COVID19, with a particular focus on testing equipment, protective clothing and ventilators for hospitals.
We will waiver Speedpoint device rentals and not charge a minimum fee for some merchants who are in good standing but operate in distressed industries. In April, individual and business customers on FNB Connect will also receive 1GB of free data to help them stay connected during the lockdown. We are also working with industry partners to ensure that customers can use any bank’s ATMs without paying additional fees over and above the fees charged by their bank.
Furthermore, we have opened an FNB bank account to facilitate financial contributions and call upon all our internal and external stakeholders to donate in support of the National Solidarity Fund. Stakeholders who would like to make donations can use the following account number FNB Account name: Solidarity Fund, Account number: 62848117447*.
The level of agility and efficiency that the industry has shown over this difficult period would not be possible without the leadership of BASA, Competition Authorities, SARB and National Treasury. We commend all partners on the joint effort to protect our country against the impact of COVID-19.