The Arkansas Bankers Association is asking bank customers to use drive-thru and ATM’s as many banks in the state begin to close or limit facilities to walk-in traffic as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. However, the association stressed that bank services will remain available.
“As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Arkansas banks are taking aggressive steps to safeguard the health and safety of their customers, staff and communities while ensuring the delivery of important financial services such as money and credit availability,” noted a statement from the association.
There were 91 bank institutions in Arkansas as of Sept. 30, 2019, below the 130 at the end of 2010, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). Assets of all Arkansas banks as of Sept. 30 was $112.076 billion, up 92.5% from the $58.206 billion at the end of 2010. Third quarter data is the latest available from the FDIC. The industry also employs 27,000 people in the state, according to the ABA.
Many banks in Arkansas began closing or limiting access to their lobbies and other facility spaces on March 17, the ABA noted. Banks are asking customers that if a “personal or banker specific” service is needed to call the bank first.
“This precaution is to ensure that small communities do not lose an entire bank branch if bank staff are exposed via lobby traffic, and to assist slowing the virus down to help medical health workers,” noted the association, which recently postponed its annual convention.
Banks are also warning customers against scammers. For example, First National Bank of Fort Smith recently sent a memo to customers that included this note: “With remote access being vital during this time, scammers may be taking advantage of the current situation. Please use extreme caution when providing any information remotely. First National Bank of Fort Smith WILL NOT ask for account numbers, social security numbers, pins, or passwords when contacting you via phone, text message or email.”
Following are other actions taken by banks in response to COVID-19.
• Banks are enhancing cleaning and sanitary practices to help mitigate the potential spread of the virus.
• Banks are implementing travel restrictions for their staff members.
• Many non-essential, non-customer-facing bank employees are being asked to work from home until further notice.
• Customers facing financial hardships as a result of COVID-19 should contact their bank to discuss their individual situation.
• Customers are encouraged to check the financial institution’s web site for updates as the situation evolves.
“Arkansas’ banks are committed to providing continued and safe customer service to their customers while also ensuring that their employees are working in safe environments. I applaud the thought and attention to detail our member banks are taking during this difficult time. Our banks have always placed the interests of their customers and communities as their mission focus, that does not change in today’s challenging environment,’ said ABA Board Chairman Rob Robinson IV, who is the community president and senior credit officer of Pine Bluff-based Simmons Bank.