By Rianne Peredo
Since March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up and shows no sign of easing, businesses came to rely on financial institutions more than ever before — for loans, for advice and for quick service.
The financial services industry has previously shared that customers want streamlined processes due to busy lifestyles. In the pandemic era, that industry has encouraged all customers to bank online and take advantage of electronic processes. All of the banks and credit unions offer a mobile banking app. In Guam as some bank branches have not yet re-opened and lines stretch around buildings — that option should be attractive and is gaining momentum.
Additionally, the contactless payment system for credit and debit cards is being offered by many institutions.
However, there are still customers in Guam and the region, as well as across the U.S. mainland, that prefer to visit banks and financial institutions for face-to-face interaction and transactions such as payments, depositing paychecks and withdrawing cash.
Contactless cards are relatively new to the region.
“We recently launched our new contactless credit and debit cards with our ‘Tap and Go’ campaign in June of this year. Some customers have already received their cards and others will be receiving their new contactless cards prior to their current cards expiring,” says Edward G. Untalan, senior vice president and region manager of First Hawaiian Bank.
Institutions such as Community First Guam Federal Credit Union and Bank of Hawaii have plans to implement contactless cards for their customers, as well as other offerings to provide convenience and efficiency, as well as safety.
“Later this year, we plan to launch a new digital card that can be stored in the mobile banking app,” says Mark H. Tokito, senior vice president and manager of Bank of Hawaii. “It would allow customers the safety and convenience to continue to transact digitally without interruptions — even in the absence of their physical card due to a theft, fraud, or a new account opening, for example.”
Another side effect of the pandemic was an initial increase in loan payment deferments, which executives say have tapered off, due to deadlines and federal and local financial help.
“After that initial deferral would expire, we try and call them if they still need help. Then we would take a look at it and give them a deferral if they need it,” says Nelson Pegarido, CEO and president of Personal Finance Center, which has about 13,000 customer accounts.
Bank of Hawaii acted speedily to aid clients as the pandemic set in.
“In March, we provided six months on both forbearances and extensions for customers across Hawaii and the West Pacific in an effort to help them through financial hardship due to the pandemic,” Tokito says. “With the deadline coming up, our bankers will be working with our customers as they resume payments.”
BankPacific launched a new mobile phone banking app with Remote Deposit Capture in July. Philip J. Flores, president and CEO of BankPacific, has observed a positive trend among the bank’s customers in recent months. “Our deposits are the highest they’ve been ever been,” he says. “We’ve had a couple of conferences with the FDIC over the last six months. Because at first, there was a concern that there might be a run on banks — people want their cash.”
Untalan has seen the execution of loan payments and savings transactions with the disbursement of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments. “One of the trends that we saw were customers opening checking accounts in order to opt-in for direct deposit so they can reduce their contact or exposure when having to receive and cash a check,” Untalan says.
Branch/teller remains the most popular contact method: 23%
| Bank of Hawaii
Percentage of customers that do online banking: 60%
|Community First Guam Federal Credit Union
Number of customer accounts: 11,078
Percentage of customers that do online banking: 28%
|Coast360 Federal Credit Union
Number of customer accounts: 70,000
Percentage of customers that do online banking: 40%Sources: Mercator Advisory Group, financial institutions