As the coronavirus pandemic continues to alter daily life, Peoples Bank has taken measures to ensure the continued safety and soundness of its operations for both its customers and staff.
Operationally, Peoples Bank has shifted its service model to ensure better social distance. The Bank is offering drive-thru services for most teller-related activities, and appointment-based scheduling for all other banking needs. These services include opening new accounts, safe deposit box rentals, and notary services, as well as treasury management and commercial and small business lending. Many services are also available by phone or handled through the Bank’s Customer Service Center.
To help prevent the spread of illness, drive-thru tellers are practicing frequent hand washing and disinfecting of workspaces. “Frequent handwashing is the best defense,” says Lisa Hefter, Peoples Bank’s Chief Administrative & Risk Officer. “We know that cash can be a vehicle for the virus to spread, so employees are asked to take frequent breaks to wash their hands. We’re also regularly disinfecting counters, and other surfaces touched by employees and customers.”
Gloves and masks are not being used unless an employee requests them, says Hefter. According to guidance from national and regional banking associations, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these items can offer a false sense of security and carry the virus longer on their surfaces. Forgoing these items also helps support front-line medical workers who are in desperate need of personal protective equipment.
Anyone who enters a Peoples Bank branch for a scheduled appointment must follow proper social distancing guidelines, as well as answer Washington State Health Department-approved screening questions. These questions include:
- Do you have a new fever of 100.4 degrees or higher?
- Do you have a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or muscle aches not related to another health condition?
All other bank employees, meanwhile, continue carrying out essential bank functions remotely from their homes. In addition, employees with customer-facing roles who are at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, have been reassigned to other remote work, so that they, too, can continue working safely from home.
In this time of social distancing, it’s also a good idea to use or become more familiar with Peoples Bank’s mobile and online banking tools. Information about these tools is available online, and Customer Service can help customers get up-and-running.
“We’ve been aligning our staff policies with guidance provided by the agencies directing this health crisis,” says Randy Fredlund, Chief Compliance & Security Officer at Peoples Bank. These measures will remain in place through at least April 8 and are dependent upon state and city-wide pandemic measures. Hefter also stated that they would continue to review agency pronouncements carefully and match the Bank’s strategy to current guidance.
Although many people and businesses were caught off guard by the spread of this novel coronavirus, operating in a pandemic is something that Peoples Bank was ready to do. As part of its business continuity plan (BCP), which is required by federal regulators, the Bank is prepared to maintain operations amid anything from a natural disaster to a major computer glitch. Hefter says the Bank’s pandemic plan is extremely thorough and had been tested numerous times heading into the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s still been a learning experience.
As for the economic roller coaster the pandemic has brought about, the Bank remains in a sound financial position. In its nearly hundred years of operation, Peoples Bank has weathered both the Great Depression and the 2008 Financial Crisis, among many other periods of economic stress. For customers, there is no change to the safety of their account funds, which are FDIC-insured.
“The community does not need to panic and withdraw cash,” Fredlund says. “Our deposits are protected, and we have the ability to provide a full range of financial services to our customers. While our personalized service looks a little different these days, we can still help people with whatever financial services they may need.”
“Our financial position is as solid as it has ever been,” adds Hefter. “We have a strong capital position and very good liquidity. These are signs of a healthy bank balance sheet.”
While the recently passed economic stimulus package will help people who have been financially impacted by the pandemic, Peoples Bank is also assisting in a variety of ways. The Peoples Bank website has links to COVID-19 related resources for consumers and businesses.
“No matter what the future holds for all of us, we want our customers to know that they can count on Peoples Bank to ensure their banking needs are met and that we are doing our part to keep employees and customers safe from the spread of COVID-19,” says Hefter. “Banking is an essential function. Customers should feel very confident that they have full access to their accounts and the banking services they need.”