Unicaja Banco has been promoting a set of measures since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to support families, businesses and the self-employed to mitigate the effects of the crisis and to contribute to the economic reactivation. The bank focuses its effort in the offering of flexible payment and funding solutions for its customers, especially for those in a situation of vulnerability, under the priority of meeting the customers’ needs and protecting the health of its employees and customers.
In line with the healthcare recommendations, the bank encourages and promotes the use of electronic resources and channels such as ATMs, digital banking (web and app) or card payment, in addition to customer service over the phone and through its social media profiles, while maintaining its proximity to customers, as an essential service in states of alarm declared by the Government (from 14 March to 21 June and from 25 October). Unicaja Banco has also activated a prevention and action plan, as well as a permanent follow-up committee, in compliance with the authorities’ recommendations.
Support to individuals
Unicaja Banco brings forward, since March, the payment of pensions, to contribute to mitigate the consequences of the health crisis on those in a situation of vulnerability. It also brings forward the payment of unemployment benefits.
Likewise, the bank has advance the payment of the new unemployment benefits to those furloughed by an ERTE (Temporary Labour Force Adjustment Plan) due to the situation caused by the COVID-19. The bank adopted this measure by joining the agreement signed on 7 May between the banking associations CECA, AEB and UNACC, the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy and the State Employment Public Service (SEPE).
The bank also offered the actions adopted by the Government, such as the moratorium on the payment of mortgages of the main residence (just concluded), and other loans, for those in a situation of vulnerability.
As reinforcement to these measures, it also applied the sectorial moratorium on mortgages and personal loans, under the sectorial agreement on the deferral of financing transactions of customers affected by the coronavirus crisis, approved by CECA and just concluded. In addition to the measures adopted by the Government on the mortgage and non-mortgage debt holiday, the sectorial moratorium included other cases to apply for a debt holiday or deferral under certain conditions on the debt arising from mortgage and non-mortgage loans and credits.
Until the end of October, Unicaja Banco had received more than 21,500 requests of moratorium, legal and sectorial, for an amount of 875 million euros.
Unicaja Banco is providing its support to those people undergoing economic difficulties caused by this crisis, and it is offering measures adapted to each particular case, to facilitate the repayment of loans (extended terms, interest-only periods or flexible repayment conditions).
Since the beginning of April and until 31 December, it also gives the holders of life and accident insurance the possibility of splitting the payment of insurance premiums at no cost. In addition to this initiative, the insurance companies Unicorp Vida (held at 50% by Santalucía and Unicaja Banco) and Unión Duero Vida (100% held by Unicaja Banco) have joined the agreement promoted by Unespa to create a solidarity fund to offer a collective life policy for health workers fighting the coronavirus.
Means of payment
During the state of alarm that ended on 21 June, Unicaja Banco has not charged any fee for withdrawing cash on debit at any ATM of the national territory, as it joined the initiative launched by CECA, together with the others associate members. The goal of this measure was to allow customers who needed to withdraw cash to go to the closest ATM to their homes, regardless of the bank they belong to, thus reducing travels.
In addition to this initiative, the contactless payment limit in cards and contactless devices has been temporarily increased from 20 to 50 euros, in order to reduce the transactions where it is necessary to enter the PIN number (this measure remains in force).
Support to businesses and freelancers
With regard to the support to freelancers and businesses, the bank focuses its efforts in the offering and channeling of financiding, especially under the ICO line of public guarantees set by the Government, which has been extended. Until the end of October, it had approved more than 11,500 financing transactions, for an amount of 850 million euros.
Additionally, Unicaja Banco facilitates measures to allow flexibility in financing conditions (extended terms, interest-only periods or flexible repayment conditions in general), which are adapted to each particular case.
In Andalusia, Unicaja Banco also offers funding under the public guarantee facility Liquidez Garántia Covid-19, approved by the Junta de Andalucía and aimed to SMEs and freelancers.
The guarantee line managed by the Agencia IDEA, dependent on the Andalusian government, is also available. And in Castilla y Leon, Unicaja Banco offers the liquidity measures established by the Junta through Iberaval and the Instituto para la Competitividad Empresarial.
Likewise, Unicaja Banco offers the Extraval Circulante COVID-19 line, aimed at the Extremadura business sector and promoted by the Consejería de Economía, Ciencia y Agenda Digital of the Junta de Extremadura, under the Decree-Law 9/2020 of 13 May.
In an effort to support businesses and freelancers, Unicaja Banco offered the moratorium on the payment of premises and building owned by the bank, pursuant to the Royal Decree-law 15/2020. It also made available to the tourist industry the mortgage moratorium in case of buildings for tourist use, included in the Royal Decree-law 25/2020, and the moratorium for the public transport sector.
Unicaja Banco has reached agreements with city halls¸ such as those of Salamanca, Valladolid and Leon, to provide SMEs and freelancers with access to funding with public guarantees, and to reactivate the commercial life after the impact of the health crisis.
Actions for shops
Unicaja Banco also supports shops through the adoption of measures as the waiver of maintenance fees for physical POS terminals –applied until 30 June- and facilities for remote processing.
The bank offers the possibility of requesting virtual POS as means of payment. Another adopted measure is the availability, for certain shops, of payment by e-mail through virtual POS.
Unicaja Banco has enabled different measures to support farming, a strategic sector in the current situation generated by the COVID-19. The bank has processed the files for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), whose submission deadline was extended until 15 June by the European Union in view of the health crisis.
Additionally, Unicaja Banco has set two lines of pre-approved loans for a total amount of more than 900 million euros: €342 million for the CAP, for customers in Andalusia, Castilla y Leon, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura, and €600 million for the intensive cultivation campaign.
Actions for properties, commercial premises and FSV housing
With a view to mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis on those in a situation of vulnerability, Unicaja Banco, during the state of alarm, has exemptedfrom the payment of half of the rent to the holders of lease agreements of properties integrated in the Social Housing Fund (Fondo Social de Vivienda, FSV).
The 50% reduction in the rent of the lease agreements integrated in the FSV, falls within the exercise by Unicaja Banco of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Furthermore, for the rest of rental housing units that Unicaja Banco has got, the bank applies the measures approved by the Government, such as the moratorium or the reduction. This measure has also been offered to businesses and freelancers for the lease of local premises owned by the bank, as officially stipulated.
Under its CSR, Unicaja Banco and the University of Malaga (UMA) have signed an agreement which will allow, thanks to the support of the financial institution, the start-up of a lab to carry out COVID-19 diagnosis with PCR tests, for what it has already received the certification by Instituto de Salud Carlos III as a COVID-19 analysis center. The contribution of Unicaja Banco will allow to acquire and complete the required equipment and to develop, additionally, research on the disease
Unicaja Banco has donated also toys to children in foster homes and tablets for the elderly in nursing homes. It has collaborated with charities such as the Banco de Alimentos de la Costa del Sol (Bancosol) to cover the needs of families at risk of social exclusion.
In collaboration with the Instituto Andaluz de la Mujer (IAM), of the Consejería de Igualdad, Políticas Sociales y Conciliación, and with the company Andaluza de Gestión de Servicios Especializados (Agise), Unicaja Banco has promoted the donation of toys to 120 children in foster homes.
The bank has also donated tablets to some nursing homes in Andalusia, belonging to the organization Edad Dorada-Mensajeros de la Paz Andalucía, to facilitate the communication of the elderly with their families during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Unicaja Banco collaborated with Bancosol in the Virtual Food Collection organized in April to assist the most disadvantaged families. <In addition, it maintains institutional collaboration with municipalities.
Prevention protocols at branches
As for the network of branches, the bank has activated a prevention protocol and it has increased the hygiene and cleaning measures, including ATMs, as well as the installation of protective screens and signaling bands, and the maintenance of the preventive distancing, as the main measures to protect customers and employees. The staff has been provided with prevention elements such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
To protect its customers and to inform them of the fight against cybercrime, which has increased since the beginning of the crisis, Unicaja Banco has communicated different recommendations, such as disregarding e-mails requesting confidential information and asking to carry out any action related to personal data, cards or bank accounts. Customers are encouraged to report to the bank immediately if they are told that there is a possibility that they have their cards blocked or cancelled. Unicaja Banco reminds that it never asks customers to provide by phone or by e-mail their access passwords, account numbers or credit or debit card numbers.