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Banks' crucial role in COVID-19 relief

04:00pm March 26 2020

As the response to COVID-19 steps up, banks urge customers experiencing financial hardship to get in contact. (Getty)

As we all step into completely unchartered territory created by COVID-19, many Australians are deeply worried. It’s not only the potential health impacts but the uncertainty around personal finances, especially as restrictions to slow the spread of the virus step up. 

Things are changing incredibly fast, often by the hour, and anxiety levels are rising, particularly as many economists now predict the recessionary economic impacts and unemployment levels to exceed those caused by the global financial crisis. 

Since announcing our new assistance packages on Friday, we’ve had more than 44,000 home loan customers and 17,000 business customers applying for assistance, and the numbers are steadily rising. We are working as quickly as possible to help those customers.

Sadly for so many people immediately affected by the shutting down of several industries, it is unlikely to be the end of the assistance we are committed to providing in these incredibly challenging times.

Westpac's relief packages aim to give customers financial breathing space until the virus is contained. (Emma Foster)

It is heartbreaking to hear so many individual customers’ stories. And what many customers are seeking is simple, transparent information: what if I lose my income and can’t pay my mortgage? What if I’m forced to shut my business’ doors? How do I keep paying rent, bills and feeding my family?

While we don’t have every answer to people’s various personal situations just yet given the speed of this crisis, our teams have been working tirelessly to do as much as possible to help our customers, employees and communities get through this. We are also constantly looking into what more we can do and extra information we can provide.

Our goal is to give customers financial breathing space until the virus outbreak is contained.

So, if you’re experiencing financial hardship, the best thing to do is contact us. We’re currently experiencing a much higher number of inquiries than usual – but our teams are committed to helping everyone as quickly as possible and we’re in the process of hiring more staff to help manage volumes. While we are encouraging customers who are able to do their banking online to do so, our branches and ATMs remain open.

Importantly for our home loan customers, if you have lost your job or suffered loss of income as a result of COVID-19, we can pause your home loan mortgage repayments for three months, with an option to extend this to six months if needed.

We also have assistance measures for small businesses bearing the brunt of the pandemic shock, including unsecured three-year term loan up to $250,000 as part of the Federal Government’s latest economic support measures that guarantees 50 per cent of new loans issued to small and medium size businesses, along with repayment relief for up to six months for small business customers who need help to manage their cash flow.

While few have gone through a global pandemic and economic shock on this scale before, as the country’s oldest company and bank, Westpac has supported Australians through tough times before – from the Great Depression and World Wars to the more recent Asian and Global Financial Crises.

I can assure you that the knowledge and experiences acquired is front of mind in every decision we are taking to best support Australians for as long as this latest shock lasts.


More about Westpac's COVID-19 customer support packages

Carolyn was appointed Westpac’s Group Executive responsible for customer and corporate relations in May 2018. This division brings together management of the Group’s customer resolution and reporting, alongside our corporate affairs, communications and sustainability functions, recognising the importance of setting high service standards and quickly resolving customer issues in managing the Group’s relationship with its customers. Carolyn joined the Westpac Group in 2013, as General Manager, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, after spending 13 years with Insurance Australia Group, including as Group General Manager, Corporate Affairs & Investor Relations. Carolyn began her career in consulting and has extensive in-house and consulting experience in financial services.

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