Alabama Bankers Association CEO Says Banks Are Secure During Pandemic

Ervins Strauhmanis, Flickr

The COVID-19 pandemic has many people wondering about their economic future and the safety of their money. Banks report experiencing more cash withdrawals in the last few weeks. In fact, demand was so high at one Manhattan bank that it temporarily ran out of $100 bills. Experts say hoarding cash can be risky, both financially and to your health. Scott Latham is President and CEO of the Alabama Bankers Association. He says banks across the state have been preparing for a crisis of this magnitude for years with help from the Alabama Recovery Coalition.

Interview Highlights:

How has the coronavirus changed banks in Alabama?

Our banks, in many instances, have gone to a modified operation plan within the retail locations in ways that certainly have impacted lobby traffic. You’re seeing banks do drive through transactions primarily with appointments to come into the bank.

Is there an uptick in online banking?

We are seeing considerable upticks in that. We have banks that have rolled out new products that were in the pipeline that they were able to go ahead and get those online as a result of what we’re going through now. So certainly, because of smartphones and because of technology, you and I are likely able to bank from almost anywhere. So, online bill pay, being able to deposit a check in many instances without ever leaving your home is now available. So banks are seeing an uptick in that. Consumers are calling and saying, ‘hey, help me get set up.’ And certainly our bankers are well prepared to do that.

What are banks across the state doing to reassure people that their money is safe?

You know, everyone’s money is absolutely safe. And we encourage consumers, number one, to rest every night knowing that your money just as before is safe. In fact, we suggest that drawing money out is unsafe; just simply to hide it under the mattress or carry it around with you in your pocket. The money is much, much safer in the bank. And it’s a level of protection that consumers don’t have when the money is outside of the banking system. Certainly deposits are insured and banks have been, for years, preparing for and responding to various natural disasters; tornadoes, hurricanes, we’ve seen history of those in our state. And as well, recessions and other times they create fear and uncertainty. Banks are solid, banks are safe, banks are secure. And on the bright and sunniest day of the year when we’re the furthest thing from a pandemic, banks are still preparing for times like that.

What is the Alabama Bankers Association doing to help maintain Alabama’s economy during and after this crisis?

We, certainly are serving as a liaison for our members in terms of information that’s coming down from the regulatory guidance side of things. And again, that’s a sign that consumers don’t see that much. But we are also providing our banks with tools that they can pass on to their customers. And I want to make certain we get an opportunity here to remind consumers that during times like this, that’s when fraudulent activity tends to ramp up. And so we are, through our banks, encouraging consumers to take extra precautions to protect their own personal information because scammers are going to be working around the clock to deceive individuals.

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