CBA will consider more COVID-19 support measures

  • By Christine St Anne

Australia’s largest bank is considering further measures to help its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only last week, the bank announced a raft of measures to help its customers including borrowers and small businesses manage during the current challenging environment.

These included deferring repayments for both borrowers and small business owners for up to six months.

In an interview with the 7:30 Report on Tuesday night, CBA CEO Matt Comyn said that the bank is currently considering further measures.

This could mean extending the deferral of repayments to all forms of credit including credit card repayments and overdrafts.

“We are considering a range of different measures. We are thinking of ways to automatically enrol customers into [the six month repayment waiver] who are most at risk.

“The government as well as the industry has been clear that no measures are off the table. We are in constant dialogue and getting real time information to what is happening in the broader community,” he told Australia’s trusted national broadcaster.

“Hearing from our customers and some of the stress and strain they are under, we are certainly prepared to look at additional measures over and above that we currently have in place at the moment.”

He also responded to questioning on whether the approach by the banks during the current crisis would help restore trust in the community particularly after the global financial crisis.

“We have to be judged by our actions and our words, and this is an incredibly important time for the country," he said.

“The Commonwealth Bank cannot be successful if Australia is unsuccessful. It is our whole reason for being in terms of facilitating economic growth and financial stability.

“We are 100 per cent focused alongside the government and other financial institutions, trying to support as many viable businesses get across this particularly challenging period of time.”

He also reassured that the bank’s systems including EFTPOS will remain operational and the bank is “extremely focused” in “supporting all parts of our essential services”.  

The bank chief also responded to questions on whether COVID-19 would drive a depression compared with a recession.

Comyn acknowledged that it currently it is difficult to assess how the health pandemic will play out but financial institutions were “preparing for a range of different scenarios”.

“What we are most focus on at the moment is recognising the severe stress and anxiety that we can see in our customer base and making sure that we are giving them all the necessary support that we can.”

He added that it was crucial that banks, the government and employers gave employees confidence even if they are stood down temporarily.  

He also added that the bank had now plans to stand down any of its 45,00 employees.  

“Australia is well placed to participate in a global economic recovery. We should be doing everything that we can now to make sure all of those viable businesses that were operating effectively before this situation are able to participate quickly once we get out of the current health crisis."