Michael Lauhoff, Director of Business Banking at Bank of Ireland, discusses the solutions undertaken by the group since the announcement of lockdown, and how they are primed for the coming months
Bank of Ireland’s focus since the beginning of the Covid-19 public health emergency has been on supporting the national effort, working constructively with industry, government and regulators and offering solutions that work for our customers. Over the past two months, our role has become less about growth, and more about support, solutions and speed.
We took immediate steps to help customers, putting in place a range of payment breaks and business supports. To date we have granted over 18,000 mortgage payment breaks and over 11,000 SME loan payment breaks. Our investment to date in the transformation of our systems really helped us with the speed of our response and also allowed us to be innovative. For example, putting in place a fully online mortgage payment break process helped us respond as quickly as possible to customers during a time of great pressure.
What does the future look like?
We have been focused on practical and pragmatic customer solutions since early March, working closely with industry, government and regulators. Our response to the initial months of this crisis during which our economies have effectively been in lockdown – which we refer to as Horizon 1 – has been comprehensive, practical and pragmatic.
But we are also focused on our planning for Horizon 2, which is when restrictions start to lift and then on Horizon 3, which could well be the ‘new normal’ – whatever this may bring. That’s looking at everything from what our customers may need in the future, to how the way we live and work and function as a society may change.
As one of the leading lenders into the Irish economy, we are keeping in close contact with our SME customers during this crisis.
A specific focus for us is supporting the reboot of our economy and getting businesses back up and running and we have a team within the bank examining ways we can contribute to this.
Rebooting our economy
Bank of Ireland has a team of sector specialists within our Business Banking division – including healthcare, retail convenience, hospitality, manufacturing, and agriculture. They work day in day out with businesses from right across the country.
As one of the leading lenders into the Irish economy, we are keeping in close contact with our SME customers during this crisis. From our engagement with customers, it is clear that different sectors face different challenges right now – and this will remain true as we start to increase economic activity whilst also working to protect public health.
When looking at how we can collectively best support Irish SMEs, we believe a national sector by sector enterprise recovery plan could help – one which delves into each of the sectors and works with them to address their specific challenges.
Each part of the plan should be informed by a real understanding of the challenges different sectors face, so it can respond to these as appropriately as possible over the coming months.
Looking to the future, it’s hard to be definitive. The world looked very different two months ago. This is a public health crisis with a sharp economic impact, and as a leading lender into the Irish economy we will remain focused on practical and pragmatic supports and solutions for our customers. And, as Ireland moves forward, we will play our part in rebooting the economy.