TORONTO — Canada’s big banks are trying to give Canadians more financial breathing room with a slew of measures aimed at helping customers hurt by an outbreak of a novel coronavirus.
The Big Six banks — Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia and TD Bank Group —have banded together to provide support to personal banking customers and small businesses coping with pay disruptions, illness and layoffs.
They announced in a joint statement that they will allow customers to defer mortgage payments for up to six months among other changes and more details would be coming soon.
“These measures are an important first step and underscore the resilience of Canada’s financial system and the strength of our major banks,” they said in their statement.
“Canada’s banks have a long history of standing by Canadians through challenging times and this commitment will continue throughout this crisis and beyond.”
When asked by The Canadian Press if the mortgage deferrals were interest-free, several of the banks could not immediately say.
They did, however, urge Canadians and business owners facing hardship to contact their bank directly to discuss options that may be available.
BMO rolled out a financial relief program, which it said is “tailored to each individual’s circumstances and needs.” For some the program would provide loan and credit-card payment deferrals.
For clients that have used BMO Rewards to book travel, the bank is waiving the change fee and will work with the travel provider to process a change or cancellation request. This could include a travel voucher with the provider or a full points refund, a statement from the bank said.
National Bank, meanwhile, said clients who are directly affected by the current situation and may have difficulty making their payments could be eligible for special measures on different products.
“We’re asking any affected clients to contact National Bank so we can work out solutions, on a case-by-case basis, depending on their personal situation,” the bank’s statement said.
“These measures may include payment deferrals of up to six months on mortgages, for example, or longer amortization periods. Special loans to cover living expenses may also be offered.”
The moves come as the large banks work together in their efforts to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus by temporarily limiting branch operating hours and reducing the number of open branches, while maintaining critical services.
On Wednesday, 206 CIBC locations closed, while 816 remained open but operating under modified hours.
Effective Friday, TD said it too would close some bank locations, but did not say how many. It committed to keeping its rural branches open where possible.
RBC and Scotiabank also shut the doors to a number of their sites, though they did not disclose how many.
BMO closed about 15 per cent of its branches and reduced hours at many of the locations staying open.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:R, TSX:TD, TSX:BNS, TSX:BMO, TSX:CM, TSX:NA)
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press