Coronavirus: Banks, insurers process thousands of applications for industry-wide relief measures

SINGAPORE – More than 340 applicants have asked DBS Bank to convert their credit card debt and Cashline balances into term loans since submissions opened on Monday (April 6).

The Republic’s biggest bank has also received more than 9,500 applications to defer payments on housing loans since February, when it announced its first round of relief measures.

Banks and insurers have been processing relief requests from customers who are hoping for help as they weather the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore announced a list of baseline measures on March 31 that include allowing individuals to defer payment of property loans and premium payments for life and health insurance plans.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that continue to pay interest and are in good standing with their banks and finance companies can choose to defer principal payments on their secured term loans up to Dec 31.

They will still be subjected to banks’ and finance companies’ assessment of the quality of the SMEs’ security.

A DBS spokesman said that the number of visitors to the bank’s SME online loan application page and total online loan applications increased by about five times last month, from a year ago.

United Overseas Bank has received more than 2,000 applications to defer mortgage repayments since Monday, said its personal financial services head Jacquelyn Tan. Applications for the bank’s property loan relief assistance before the baseline measures were announced also increased almost 10 times over five weeks.

“We have also seen a consistent increase in applications for unsecured credit relief,” Ms Tan said, of the response since the baseline measures were rolled out.

Maybank has received more than 800 applications to defer home loan payments from just this Monday to Wednesday (April 8), a spokesman said.

Requests to convert unsecured debts to term loans hit more than 500 in the same period.

“We have received a few hundred retail SME customers writing in or contacting the bank. Due to the surge in enquiries, we have put in place additional resources to ensure every customer receives adequate attention and assistance,” the spokesman said.

“We notice there are more requests from businesses in manufacturing, general wholesale trade, travel and restaurants.

“These SMEs typically command revenues of below $10 million, and most of them are seeking more than S$200,000 worth of working capital financing.”

OCBC Bank global commercial banking head Linus Goh said: “Over one third of SMEs that we have engaged are keen to receive assistance during this challenging period.”

CIMB Bank chief executive Victor Lee said that most of the enquiries that the bank has received are about its temporary bridging loan programme.

“Trade extensions requests have picked up as well,” he added. “As for our Consumer financial relief scheme, the Covid-19 CIMB Care Package, most of the enquiries and applications are on mortgage.”

A Standard Chartered Bank spokesman said: “We have received hundreds of companies’ applications for loan moratorium, which mostly are requests for the deferment of interest payments.”

“For retail banking, we have so far received more requests for mortgage reliefs than for credit cards and revolving balances,” he added.

Insurance companies have also rolled out relief measures for policyholders.

Insurer Tokio Marine has received over 50 applications to defer premium payments, said chief marketing officer Gilbert Pak. “Plus, we are handling numerous enquiries on a daily basis,” he added.

Aviva has received about 100 applications for premium deferment, its spokesman said.

An Etiqa spokesman said that four in 10 of enquiries about deferring premium payments subsequently turned into applications.

He added: “Our applications come mainly from individual policyholders who have suffered loss of job or loss of income from work or business.”

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