By LYNN LOFTON
Banks, like all businesses, are adapting their business model to the reality of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For some that means giving special consideration to customers who miss loan payments due to unemployment. Another change is limiting transactions to drive-through windows and inside banking by appointment.
One of those financial institutions making a change is Gulfport headquartered Hancock Whitney, which is limiting the direct contact between employees and customers. “Everything is evolving, I expect for all banks,” said Vice President/Senior Communications Officer Paul Maxwell. “It will be a combination of options, much like in a post-hurricane environment.”
With 114 full-service bank branches, 161 ATMs and 1,300 employees in Mississippi, Regions Bank’s top priority is the safety of customers and associates. Metro Jackson Market Executive Robert Leard said, “We have taken several proactive steps, including enhanced facility cleaning and providing guidance to associates on measures to limit exposure and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“ Our branch-banking services are temporarily limited to drive-through options and in-office appointments. Customers are also encouraged to use the bank’s online and mobile banking options and network of ATMs, many of which provide Video Banking service as well as check cashing and deposit services.”
Leard says Regions Bank understands the challenges customers are facing. “We want to be part of the solution. “We have a series of options available for those experiencing financial hardships. Services range from loan payment deferrals and extensions with no late fees, to payment extensions for credit cards, to many other options.,” he said. “We have complete details on our website and people can contact our Mississippi branches to discuss their individual needs and let us identify ways we can help.
“Our hope is to make this difficult time easier for the people and businesses we serve. We live here, we work here, and we will get through this together.”
Leard encourages customers experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus to call their bankers to discuss payment or assistance options related to Regions credit cards, personal loans, home equity loans and business loans. Additionally, a mortgage assistance applications is available through the Regions Mortgage Payment Assistance team.
The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank, is initially committing $2.5 million to fund grants for organizations with proven track records of helping small businesses navigate economic or operational challenges.
Planters Bank is also stepping up to the challenge of helping customers in what they acknowledge is a trying time for the average consumer. “If a customer is facing a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, we encourage them to contact their Relationship Manager or our Customer Contact Center to discuss their specific situation,” said Jim Quinn, executive vice president-COO. “We are being proactive now making customers aware that we are offering a 90-day payment extension on any Planters Bank loan, in good standing. There is no fee for the extension. We do ask the customer to pay the interest outstanding.”
Quinn added that Planters Bank can help pave the path to Small Business Association loans should a small business request assistance. “Our lenders are eager to help out anywhere they can with our consumer loan products to bridge a short fall in cash to pay bills.”
Trustmark Bank CEO Jerry Host says the health and safety of customers, associates and communities is always a top priority for them. “As we closely monitor the current situation surrounding the Coronavirus through federal, state and local authorities, we are maintaining policies and procedures that help ensure we are able to continue to provide our financial products and services,” he said. “We have re-aligned our branch services by limiting lobby service to appointment only and encouraging the use of our drive through where applicable.”
Customers are also encouraged to utilize myTrustmark®, the online and mobile banking service, to practice safe social distancing.
“To protect the safety of our associates, we are taking a proactive approach and implementing safeguards, such as limiting non-essential company travel, social distancing and working remotely when possible, encouraging frequent hand washing and instructing our associates to stay home if they are sick,” Host said.
Trustmark customers facing a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, are asked to contact their relationship manager or call the bank’s COVID-19 Assistance Hotline to discuss their specific situation.
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