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Banks offer help to virus-impacted customers

Ready to act: Bermuda Bankers Association members are offering to help those who suffer financially as a result of coronavirus-related economic disruption

Bermuda’s banks say they will work with customers who struggle financially in the event of coronavirus-related economic disruption.The Bermuda Bankers Association said last night that its members had been “very active in preparing for the potential public health actions that may be implemented in Bermuda” as a result of a potential Covid-19 outbreak.“We are also aware of the potential economic consequences for our customers, if there are significant disruptions to our daily activities,” the BBA stated.The statement continued: “BBA member banks will undertake good faith measures to work with customers who are struggling financially to ensure that they are made aware of the options available to them. “We emphasise that customers who may be facing income dislocation due to this potential health-related emergency, should contact their respective bank at the earliest opportunity to explain the economic difficulties that they may be experiencing so that responsible options can be discussed.”The statement follows a call from the Bermuda Government for the island’s banks to cut their lending rates after the US Federal Reserve dropped its influential “fed funds” rate by half a percentage point last week. The island’s four banks — HSBC Bank Bermuda, Butterfield Bank, Clarien Bank and Bermuda Commercial Bank — are the members of the BBA and employ a combined total of about 1,200 people in Bermuda.All the banks have business continuity plans to respond to potential emergency situations, the BBA said, and all will be closely following announcements from the Emergency Measures Organisation.Italy, the country with the biggest outbreak of Covid-19 outside China, this week announced a freeze on mortgage payments after a nationwide lockdown.In the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland has offered similar relief to its customers.