WEEKLY ROUNDUP - 20.03.2020
Your Friday fix for global fintech and payments news
As news of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to radiate the airwaves, with constant updates the world over, it may seem hard not to feel discouraged. As freedom seems reduced for many and some of the things we take for granted are on hold, our Weekly Roundup brings you a taste of some of the positives we are seeing. Here’s something to make you smile, a tale of human kindness to reflect how basic consideration and compassion in times of crisis are essential to help us through it, together.
- Nationwide to open branches an hour early for vulnerable customers
- European banks shut hundreds of branches to curb COVID-19 spread
- Kenya turns to M-Pesa mobile-money to stem the spread of COVID-19
Nationwide, this week, has decided to open its doors to vulnerable customers an hour earlier than everyone else in an effort to provide them with dedicated time and services in which to do their banking. This move comes as the UK government is advising people over the age of 70, and those with underlying health conditions, to self-isolate and reduce social contact for the next four months. More than 100 branches across the UK offer the service, opening from 8am, instead of the usual 9am. Customers will be able to use the facilities before anyone else, and benefit from the enhanced cleaning each branch will have undergone the previous evening.
Mandy Beech, Nationwide’s Branch Network Director, commented that: “We understand the current situation is likely to hit the elderly and vulnerable the hardest, not only because of the higher risk of catching coronavirus, but also through potentially feeling isolated from the wider world should this issue continue for a longer period.”
In other news however, due to many European banks being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary closures of hundreds of banks have been announced. UniCredit’s bank, HypoVereinsbank (HVB), has revealed that it will close 101 out of its 337 branches in Germany, with branch teams working from home for the foreseeable future. The remaining banks will be open on alternate weeks to continue to provide customers with personal advice. HVB has resultantly made strides in strengthening its multi-channel banking services by offering a 24-hour self-service zone in each of its 337 branches, which will allow customers to carry out regular day-to-day banking transactions. Consultation services will also be provided through phone, video, and Skype calls.
Similar moves have also been made in Italy, as retail bank Intesa San Paolo has now closed 122 of its small branches. UniCredit, which currently has around 4,000 branches in Italy, will only be keeping a limited number in each region open.
In an effort to reduce the amount of physical cash transactions, Kenyan telco Safaricom is waiving fees for its leading mobile money service, M-Pesa. Safaricom is making all P2P transactions under 1,000 Kenyan Schillings (around $10) available for free for the next 90 days. In order to encourage greater mobile payments usage, the East African telecom has also decided to support SMEs by raising the daily transaction limits from 70,000 Kenyan Schillings to 150,000 (≈ $700 to $1,500). Despite the country only currently having 4 active cases of COVID-19, it is nonetheless undertaking precautionary measures to stop the virus from spreading further.