Following the devastating scenes of unrest and violence in parts of South Africa, and the vandalising of infrastructure, Absa has introduced a range of customised relief measures for customers impacted by the recent disorder.
“Through and post the crisis Absa has had to deliver uninterrupted banking services to our customers. The immediate need was to ensure that the closure of a branch or an ATM in an area, did not equate to eliminating access to banking. We have been hard at work restoring branch and ATM operations that were impacted in parts of South Africa,” says Bongiwe Gangeni, Deputy Chief Executive, Absa Retail and Business Bank.
Concurrently, Absa has been assessing the full scale of the impact on both retail and business bank customers. Customers were impacted differently and experienced varying levels of loss based on their unique circumstances.
As we forge ahead with a route to recovery, Absa has introduced the following measures to assist customers and communities over this period:
- Reintroduction of payment relief: With immediate effect Absa is reintroducing the Siyasizana programme to provide a bespoke payment relief solution to assist retail customers (individuals) with existing credit facilities that have been impacted by the unrest.
- Tailored credit/relief solutions for business bank customers: Absa will be offering dedicated, bespoke credit solutions for businesses (including SMEs), as they rebuild and restore operations. Solutions will be based on the unique circumstances and needs of each business.
- Reduction of Saswitch fees for two months: As part of an industry initiative, Absa will subsidise the fees charged when a customer uses a Saswitch ATM from 1 August 2021. Customers can use any ATM in South Africa and pay the usual fee charged by their own bank.
- Absa-supported ATMs more affordable: In addition, cash withdrawal fees have also been reduced at Absa-supported ATMs (machines not owned by Absa). For the retail customers that make use of our transactional accounts, they can withdraw cash at Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals free of charge.
- Bank-on-wheels: Our mobile ATMs have been deployed to the affected communities in parts of KZN to provide banking services and to alleviate pressure particularly for the pending SASSA payment period.
- Assistance with POS terminals: Absa will waive POS monthly terminal rental fees for businesses that have been impacted by the recent unrest and will assist with a replacement if required.
- Absa will continue to offer free online banking and digital cash-flow manager services with the Business Evolve account.
- We also remind our retail customers that our transactional accounts include free retrenchment cover, whilst credit life policies on loan or credit facilities cover customers for loss of income.
- To ensure that standalone life insurance cover remains unaffected, we are offering an additional two months premium payment relief. In addition, all valid claims, including hospitalisation, disability or death, as a result of the recent unrest, will be paid.
- Absa Insurance Company is assisting insurance customers with fast-tracking claims assessment, processing and fulfilment as per the SASRIA mandate (the state-owned insurer), for losses arising out of the unrest.
- Over and above these measures, Absa has committed R12.5 million to support relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. Of this, R5 million will be donated to the Humanitarian Crisis Relief fund set up by the Solidarity Fund, and R7.5 million will be allocated to food relief, support of micro enterprises and rebuilding social infrastructure.
The latest measures are on the back of existing relief efforts which saw R9.8 billion in cash-flow relief delivered to 613 000 retail and business bank customers in 2020, and R500 million in pricing relief provided to retail customers in 2021.
“Like many businesses in parts of the country, Absa was deeply impacted by this crisis. In addition to the damage and loss experienced by many of our customers, approximately 21 branches, and more than 200 of our ATMs were damaged or vandalised – we have a first-hand appreciation of the disruption the recent looting has caused. This has strengthened our resolve to serving our loyal customers and ensuring that they have uninterrupted access to banking services,” added Gangeni.
During these uncertain times, guarding against fraud still remains a top priority. Customers are urged to register for the bank’s transaction notification service to keep a close eye on all activity in their account. In addition, customers are urged to never share their “keys to the safe” (card PIN, card CVV, card One Time PIN/OTP, online banking PIN or online banking password) with anyone – banks will never ask customers to confirm confidential information over the phone. In this regard, Absa has launched a market-first digital fraud warranty for customers who bank using our banking app – signalling our confidence in the security of our app as the safest way to bank.