12th May 2020

Lockdown exit at Spuerkeess

Spuerkeess has continued to offer a complete banking service over the whole lockdown period. While temporary restrictions on counter transactions could not be avoided, they have had no impact on the vast majority of customers. Customers have naturally turned to the bank’s highly effective digital channels, or to the new Spuerkeess Direct remote banking service. As we take our first steps towards the end of lockdown, we speak to Head of Branch Network Coordination, Gaston Molling.

Mr Molling, in terms of banking services, what impact will lockdown have had on your customers?

From this viewpoint, the lockdown had a relatively limited impact on our customers. They had continuous access to our whole range of products and services. Of course, like everywhere, we had to reduce face-to-face human interaction to the absolute minimum, but we were able to offer customers alternative channels. Before continuing, I would like to thank our employees for their commitment and flexibility. Each and every one of them helped to implement the crisis plan, which has been adapted on a daily basis, or even several times a day at the start of the pandemic. I would also like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding throughout the lockdown.

How will Spuerkeess come out of lockdown?

Initially, we will still be far from returning to how things were before the lockdown. While all our 54 branches will again be open from 11 May 2020, a whole series of sanitary measures will be in place to protect the health of our staff and customers. While it is our intention to once again offer our full range of services through all our distribution channels, including all our branches, the bank’s primary concern will remain everyone’s health.

What are these safety measures, in practical terms?

We are strictly following the recommendations and obligations set out by the government and the various health authorities. So, like all other businesses, wearing masks is obligatory in our branches, both for staff and customers. In order to ensure that people maintain a distance of two metres between each other, the number of customers allowed to enter a branch at the same time will be adapted to the circumstances and set individually depending on the branch’s size. We will therefore ask our customers to wait outside until an employee invites them to enter.

Hand sanitiser will be made available, and premises will be cleaned in accordance with an intensified cleaning schedule. In addition, protective plexiglass barriers have been installed on open space counters and on advisors' desks… In short, we are doing everything we can to protect the health of our employees and customers. But the best way they can protect themselves will still be to use our digital solutions, S-Net and S-Bank, or Spuerkeess Direct for all banking transactions that do not require physical attendance at a branch.

But the best way they can protect themselves will still be to use our digital solutions, S-Net and S-Bank, or Spuerkeess Direct for all banking transactions that do not require physical attendance at a branch

Is there no longer any need to book an appointment to visit a branch?

Indeed, no obligation anymore to make an appointment to visit a branch between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.. For financing and investments, customers have the opportunity to meet with an advisor on an extended schedule, but by appointment only. Withdrawals, transfers and deposits can be made at our counters during the time slots specially reserved for this purpose, i.e. from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m..

How long will these measures and restrictions stay in place?

We are monitoring the development of the pandemic from day to day, and we will adapt our measures based on the authorities’ recommendations and decisions. Our measures will thus be eased or strengthened depending on the health situation. In any event, safety measures will only be able to be relaxed once the government has eased its obligations and recommendations. It is not for the bank to take a decision on its own, which would jeopardise the health of our employees and customers. We believe that the current measures will have to be maintained for quite a long time. For how long? Only time will tell. But one thing is sure, no matter what the future holds, the last few weeks have shown that Spuerkeess will be able to continuously provide a complete banking service through its digital channels and through its new remote channel, Spuerkeess Direct.

No matter what the future holds, the last few weeks have shown that Spuerkeess will be able to continuously provide a complete banking service through its digital channels and through its new remote channel, Spuerkeess Direct.

Will this crisis have a lasting impact on the way people think about their relationship with their banker, or the way they manage their banking?

We don’t yet have the benefit of hindsight to provide a definitive answer to this question, and we have to distinguish between different types of customer. Those who, already before COVID-19, mainly, or even exclusively, used digital channels for their everyday banking transactions have not felt any impact in terms of banking. For customers who had previously been reluctant to use digital channels, the circumstances may have provided an opportunity to win them over to the numerous benefits offered by S-Net, S-Net Mobile and S-Bank.

For many customers, across all categories, this will have been their first opportunity to obtain advice remotely, mainly via Spuerkeess Direct. We are confident that the enthusiasm for this type of remote service will continue.

One thing we can already say today is that the pandemic will have boosted cashless and contactless payments, and we expect this trend to continue after the crisis.

Thank you for talking to us.