Given the crisis that Puerto Rico is experiencing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) preventive lockdown, several major banks and financial institutions are taking special measures to attend to customers, mostly remotely.
The Puerto Rico Bankers Association said among other measures, local banks have implemented recurring periods of hand washing for employees, a control of the number of people who can enter a branch at the same time, cancellation of staff and executive work trips, a reduction of in-person meetings and strict cleaning parameters of office facilities and equipment.
“It is important to note that several duties and sectors were excluded from the closure established the executive order [issued by Gov. Wanda Vázquez], such as the banking industry itself, so that many people will continue to work and will not be economically affected. Therefore, each person should discuss their need with their bank so that it determines the aid they qualify for,” Bankers Association Executive Vice President Zoimé Álvarez-Rubio said.
Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, for one, is urging customers to use drive-up windows and online services to avoid going to branches.
“At Popular we’re prepared to handle the situation and are ready to support our clients,” said CEO Ignacio Álvarez.
“The coming days and weeks will present challenges that we have never faced. I am confident that, exercising prudence, working together and being supportive, we will overcome them and move forward, just as we have done in recent years,” he said.
Clients who are financially affected and need assistance regarding their mortgage loans, personal loans, auto loans or leases, or credit cards, should call 787-522-4945 or 1-833-221-2203. Business customers can contact their relationship officer or call the Business Banking Center at 787-753-3939, the financial institution said.
For now, all its branches, with the exception of five, will operate during regular hours, including those located in shopping centers. The branches that will remain closed are San Patricio Mall, The Mall of San Juan, Minillas, Peñuelas, Albergue Olímpico and the University of Puerto Rico.
Oriental also urged clients not to visit branches and to use the available technology to conduct their banking transactions, “wherever and whenever they want.”
“At Oriental, our customers and employees are our priority, and this is why we are responsibly taking the necessary measures to guarantee their safety,” Oriental CEO José Rafael Fernández said.
“The hours of our branches will be reduced and we will be implementing rules that help prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.
Branches inside malls will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and their drive-up windows from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oriental bank branches will open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., including the former Scotiabank locations. Drive-up windows at those branches will offer service from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as the ATM machines.
On Saturdays, all branches will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Service centers on Piñero Avenue and El Señorial in San Juan will also open until 1 p.m.
Access to branches will be controlled and guided by Oriental employees to ensure the safety of clients. Antibacterial fluid will be offered to every customer visiting a branch, Fernández said.
“We urge our clients to take advantage of the convenience of using the digital channels that we have available to facilitate the management of their accounts through mobile banking and online banking. These solutions allow our clients to have access to their bank accounts without having contact with other people and thus reduce the possibility of any contagion,” Fernández said.
Transaction processing firm Evertec, which manages the ATH Network in Puerto Rico, has set off its business continuity plan maintain the services it offers to its customers, and in turn ensure the well-being of its employees, families and the general community.
After several weeks of preparation, Evertec activated its remote work protocol whereby most of its employees are working from home using infrastructure and technology provided by the company.
“A limited group of essential employees continue to work from our offices with all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and well-being,” Evertec CEO Mac Schuessler said.
“At Evertec we’re focused on three main objectives: the well-being of our employees and their families; the continuity of services to our clients, many of which are critical to the communities where we operate; and limiting the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“We recognize that we have committed employees who are very aware of the importance of what they do and who give us the confidence to ensure that both our clients and the people who depend on our services will be able to receive them without interruption,” Schuessler added.
Mortgage servicer Moneyhouse confirmed it is offering 24/7 service via its branches and its online platform. However, all educational and promotional activities for sales have been postponed until further notice.
Moneyhouse has branches in San Juan (Paseo Covadonga), Cayey, Carolina, Bayamón, Ponce, Caguas, and Mayagüez.