Tuesday, March 24, 2020 / 1:03 PM /
Ottoabasi Abasiekong for WebTV / Header Image Credit: LA City
With about 40 cases of the Coronavirus pandemic confirmed in Nigeria, and the first death recorded yesterday. The Federal, State governments and Corporate Nigeria have intensified efforts to contain the pandemic.
For the financial services industry it has become a top priority as two (2) deposit money banks in Nigeria Access Bank and Ecobank announced that some of the cases confirmed had contacts with their respective bank branches.
Access Bank reported the case of one of customers in a Lagos branch, while Ecobank reported that of the first Nigerian to die of COVID-19 infection who was at one of its Abuja branch recently.
This has led to the decisions of closing the affected branches and placing all their staff on self-isolation for the next 14 days.
In their separate communications the banks advised all those who had come in contact with the affected branches during the period to self-isolate and contact the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
This brings to the fore the growing concerns that bank branches are in an unintended manner serving as transmission points for COVID-19, a situation which requires urgent attention.
It further strengthens the need for customers to take seriously the use of online and virtual channels for financial transactions.
In Europe, Commerzbank due to the COVID-19 pandemic is closing hundreds of its approximately 1,000 German locations.
By shuttering its locations Commerzbank is deploying panels fixed in and out of the branches, that guarantees the health and security of its staff as they interact with customers
For the United States of America most banks have closed their branches and have switched to Drive-Through and ATM operations, to serve their customers and guard against the spread of the virus.
Also, banks like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley have crafted split operation strategies for their staff during the period.
In the United States there is the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which published the 2007 guidance, that provides pandemic planning guidance for banks in the country .
The FFIEC is Chaired by the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
United Kingdom Banks on their part are enforcing the social distancing principle of only 2 customers at a time in the banking hall. This had led to long queues but the banks have emphasized 'Safety First' in the midst of the pandemic.
Following recent developments in 3 banks in Nigeria concerning COVID-19, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and money centre banks will need to emphasize the importance of digital banking.
Analysts note that social distancing should be entrenched with at least 3 people allowed in any bank branch at a time.
Nigerians have been encouraged to use ATMs, USSD banking modes and online financial services.