Financial industry responds to the novel coronavirus

Federal financial institution regulators and state regulators released a statement on March 9 that encouraged financial institutions to meet the financial needs of customers and members affected by the coronavirus

Regulators who authored the statement included the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

The agencies acknowledged the potential impact of the coronavirus on the customers, members, and operations of many financial institutions and said they will provide appropriate regulatory assistance to affected institutions subject to their supervision.

Regulators suggested financial institutions work constructively with borrowers and other customers in affected communities. Prudent efforts that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices should not be subject to examiner criticism, the statement said.

The agencies understand that many financial institutions may face current staffing and other challenges, according to the release. In cases in which operational challenges persist, regulators will expedite, as appropriate, any request to provide more convenient availability of services in affected communities. The regulators will work with affected financial institutions to schedule examinations or inspections to minimize disruption and burden.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also sent letters to the American Bankers Association and other financial trade groups seeking information about the banking industry’s response to the virus, according to a release by the ABA.

Rob Nichols, president and CEO of the ABA, met with President Trump and CEOs from some the nation’s largest banks at a White House meeting to discuss the financial industry’s response to the pandemic.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and health of our employees and customers, and America’s banks have taken prudent steps to prepare for this difficult situation,” Nichols said in a statement. “Banks of all sizes stand ready to support the customers and communities they serve as well as the broader economy and help the nation overcome this challenge.”

Nichols emphasized that the ABA is working to help banks of all sizes “build continuity and resiliency programs so we can keep the banking system open to support our customers and clients who in many cases are facing a time of need.” He added that “that’s what banks do . . . stick by their customers in good times and challenging times, and that’s what all the banks in the United States are doing today.”

Attendees at the meeting discussed steps banks are taking to accommodate customers, ensure employee well-being and continue daily operations, such as:

  • Offering assistance to affected customers through fee waivers, hardship programs, additional small business support, extended banker availability hours and other measures
  • Advising customers who are experiencing financial difficulties to contact bank managers and lenders for help
  • Donating funds to support the domestic and global response and to aid public health relief efforts
  • Implementing remote work for non-customer facing staff
  • Increasing social distancing measures for all customer-facing staff
  • Restricting staff travel

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