Update for CUDA Owner Members 23rd March 2020

RE: Conference call with Minister Donohoe, Dept of Finance, CUDA, CUMA, ILCU, NSF

The Minister opened by updating stakeholders on how the evolving situation will impact people from both a public health standpoint and also economically;

  • In terms of public health, he stated that it is clear the number of detections will increase steadily, and unfortunately the number of deaths also;
  • A massive effort is underway to grow capacity within the public health system to meet the demands that lie ahead;
  • The impact is equally challenging on the economic side with over 100,000 people accessing the Covid-19 payment announced by the Government;
  • There will be another round of people who will have their employment impacted as lower demand for services kicks in;
  • The Department is in the very final stages of introducing a plan to mitigate the very worst of the employment impacts, they have considered actions taken in other Countries, but the plan will not follow any of them and be specific to Ireland’s needs.

Stakeholders raised a number of issues and updated the Minister on the work that Credit Unions are undertaking and gave examples of how credit unions are maintaining key services to their Members and communities. Frustration was expressed in relation to the Bank of Ireland branch closures announce today [101 branches] as this may increase demands on Credit Unions in communities around the country. This anticipated rise in volumes of requests for forbearance that are being received from Members whose employment has been impacted was raised as was the request for support from the Minister and the Central Bank of Ireland in a number of areas including the management of liquidity, capital, reserves and branch security – further heightened by impact of bank branch closures  on cash management and inflows. The need for parity in treatment of mortgage forbearance and CCR Reporting was also referenced.

Specifically in response to BoI closures, the Department stated that other banks intend keeping all branches open tomorrow, Tuesday, and hope to be able to update credit unions in advance of any future changes to this position later in the week. But further closures are expected.

Concluding, the Minister stated that the Government is coming under increasing pressure to implement a full lock-down, and a decision will only be made on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team. A key consideration here would be the need to define an ‘essential service’ if there is to be a full lock-down and this would be challenging for a complex economy like Ireland.

On behalf of the Government, the Minister wished to acknowledge the great work Credit Unions are doing in communities around the country in terms of maintaining services and observing social distancing requirements in branches. He understands that many staff will be working through concerns they have for their own health and for family members. He finished emphasising that credit unions will play an important role in the rebound and recovery phase. The Minister issued a press release following the meeting, see copy of it attached.

On reflection, my message and take from the conference call to our owner member credit unions is to think through both scenarios:

  1. If credit unions are not an essential service,  and, therefore, you will be required to close and be in full lockdown, what services do you need to continue to provide key services remotely e.g. EFTs to facilitate members with access to income / savings / credit, and who do you need to have access to provide them?
  2. If credit unions are regarded as an essential service, what skeleton staff do you require? How can you guarantee their health and safety?

CUDA has a further conference call in the morning with the Central Bank, and the Dept again on Wednesday with the other representative bodies. We hope further clarity can be provided over the coming days. This could all change very quick should the National Public Health Emergency Team advise the Government to enter lock-down.

Stay safe, regards for now, Kevin