Banking and Coronavirus: Is online banking accessible for all?

by Mya Bollan

Online banking may not be an option for everyone but what are banks doing to support customers?

Bank branches are permitted to stay open, despite the strict rules that have ordered non essential shops and businesses to close.

However, staff availability amongst other factors mean that branches are limiting hours or even closing, sometimes on short notice. Telephone banking is also under strain as increasing customer calls and decreasing staff availability means long waits or inability to deal with issues quickly is to be expected.

Instead, banks are encouraging people to use online banking. Whether it be through the banks website and digital set ups on through mobile banking apps.

Banks are taking to Twitter, encouraging customers to use online methods.

A finder survey revealed that in 2019 73% of Brits used online banking. Online banking has experienced a year-on-year growth. The survey also showed that 1 in 10 Brits have fully switched the online banking, now not having a branch at all, with two-thirds planning to fully convert to online in the near future.

Currently, elderly people are being urged to fully isolate – with over 70s and high risk individuals asked to be in quarantine for 12 weeks.

Many older people have a strong preference for in-branch banking, according to an AgeUK report. This, however, is difficult if not impossible for some throughout the outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequential quarantining.

To give a general insight the Office for National Statistics provided a summary of online banking by age in 2018.

Many websites, such as Just Retirement, include hints and tips to help people set up online banking accounts but with the hurdle of access to the internet, this still prevents some people from being able to digitalise their accounts.

A Bank of Scotland colleague spoke about the measures in place for customers generally during the coronavirus outbreak and also in particular, what banks are doing for elderly customers.

Mobile banking takes away pretty much 99% of the need to go into branch. There’s not a massive need to go into branch anymore.”

“What we are asking people to do is, if you can avoid it – if you have friends or family who can take money out or do your shopping on an IOU do that… If you don’t need to come into branch then don’t!”

Bank of Scotland colleague

Margaret Pilling is 65 and her husband Dennis is 70. The couple both have COPD and Dennis has other additional heart problems, which means they both fall into the high risk category. Margaret says she does not have online banking, she does not wifi connection at home and her mobile phone is not compatible for downloads of apps.

I am lucky, my daughter can help me out. I have a bank card and most of my payments are already set up so come out and in my accounts.

But my husband doesn’t have a bank card. People who are in that position and don’t have a partner or family to help, it could be scary.

Maybe volunteer schemes could help, but how safe is that and who can really be trusted. Money and banking is a difficult thing to hand over to people.

Margaret Pilling

With volunteers signing up to help throughout the country, adding banking needs and assistance for those who cannot safely leave the house could help people in need and help banks reduce risk to customers and equally to staff.


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