CBA ready to help customers in lockdowns

The boss of the nation’s biggest retail bank has assured customers he stands ready to provide support in the face of lockdowns that now cover more than half the population of the country.

Greater Sydney and some NSW regional areas are in lockdown until July 30, and Victoria is in an extended shutdown until next Tuesday, as is South Australia.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Matt Comyn said his bank received 500 requests for financial help on Tuesday, particularly for home loan deferrals, and anticipates this will build in the coming weeks.

The bank is offering loan deferrals for two months, as well more tailored solutions because people are unevenly impacted by the latest round of lockdowns.

“Clearly, Delta (a strain of COVID-19) is causing all sorts of challenges around the country at the moment but we will continue to work closely with our customers,” Mr Comyn told ABC radio on Wednesday.

CBA and other banks offered similar support to businesses and individuals during the recession last year and, as then, Mr Comyn expects foreclosures to be small.

“The vast majority, because of the economic recovery and the strength of the labour market, have been able to recommence repayments and the deferrals right across the industry have been successful,” he said.

Like a growing number of economists, Mr Comyn is predicting a negative impact on the economy in the September quarter from the spate of lockdowns.

But he believes there is less uncertainty than at the start of the pandemic last year because there is now a vaccine.

“There is a clear path out. It is going to take some time but there is a lot of momentum behind the vaccine rollout,” he said.

“We would expect the economy will bounce back quite strongly.”

But peak accounting body CPA Australia believes businesses will need support beyond the point state economies start to reopen.

CEO Andrew Hunter says the new national arrangements for COVID-19 business support are a positive development.

“The missing piece is what happens once a lockdown ends,” he added.

“The impact on businesses doesn’t stop the moment a government calls time on a lockdown. If support is withdrawn immediately, many businesses may experience a damaging hard landing.”

CPA Australia is calling for tapered support for small- and medium-sized enterprises based on a decline in turnover, the deferral of Commonwealth and state revenue collection and a moratorium on compliance.

It also wants consumer incentives, such as dining, travel and accommodation vouchers, and financial assistance for businesses seeking professional advice.

“If the government takes the initiative immediately, we could have a strategy in place for when current lockdowns end, and for any future lockdowns,” Mr Hunter said.

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