We are currently living in extraordinary times. Virtually every aspect of our lives has been turned upside down by coronavirus. Across London, people are being confronted with new realities and difficult choices, both in terms of work and our commitments to friends, loved ones and communities.
At Lloyds Banking Group, one of the biggest challenges we face is how to minimise the financial impact of the pandemic for businesses and for families.
We’ve introduced payment holidays on loans, credit card repayments and mortgages, with access to interest free overdrafts of up to £500 for personal customers needing immediate support.
We are also focusing on those who need most help, so in addition to our regular telephone and internet banking systems, we’ve set up a range of new services, including a dedicated helpline for the over 70s and a system where calls from NHS employees are given priority so they can focus on the vital work they do.
And to support people who may struggle to get to grips with online banking, we’ve teamed up with skills training provider We Are Digital to help customers stay connected and safe online. This unique partnership will also provide a specialist phone line to help up to 20,000 customers access the internet, and deliver up to 2,000 tablets for those over 70 who lack a suitable device to get online.
We’re also working with our charity partner Mental Health UK and The Silver Line, a partner to Age UK, to provide both practical and emotional support to help mitigate the effects the outbreak is having on people’s mental and financial health.
These interventions can make a huge difference to helping us through the crisis. However, it is also vital we support the wider London economy and the businesses which make it thrive.
Understandably, there has been a powerful focus on the UK Government’s CBIL (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan) Scheme and other related initiatives. The banking sector is working closely with the government to implement these schemes and we are beginning to see their impact.
However, CBILS are not the only form of help available. Indeed, we know many companies feel other solutions are more suited to their needs at this time.
For example, CFES, a specialist healthcare construction and engineering firm based in London and Essex, is working to deliver additional hospital bed capacity for the NHS. A Lloyds Bank support package has enabled the firm to respond quickly to the heightened demand for its services. It has quadrupled the number of subcontractors it’s using and is currently working with 250 supply chain partners.
Equally, it took just 45 minutes for Lloyds Bank to approve a package of support measures for Croydon-based business BlueKit Medical, allowing it to ramp up the amount of PPE equipment it can supply to the NHS – vital equipment like face masks, gowns and gloves.
This support has been made possible by our frontline staff, who have been working tirelessly for all our customers – in often deeply personal ways.
In our branches, we have seen our London team reach out to an elderly lady who comes into the branch every week to do her banking, but also for a cup of tea and a chat as she lives on her own. Concerned that she was self-isolating, the team called her to check how she was and that she had some way of getting money and food, which she really appreciated. Colleagues in North London have been visited by a number of nurses from abroad currently in the UK to support the NHS, and have helped them to open their first bank account here.
So, throughout this period of uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing. By supporting each other and every member of our community, we will come through this together.
For more information about the support available to residents and businesses, please click here.