ANZ Bank steps up commitment


A lot of ANZ customers in Fiji were struggling which was expected in the business environment, according to ANZ Country head to Fiji Rabih Yazbek.

“So from ANZ’s perspective, we’re kind of stepping up and committing to helping our customers,” he said.

“It’s a tough environment and we are focused on being able to support the customers, the community and the staff.

“We have a big workforce in Fiji, we are proud to say we haven’t reduced numbers or furloughed any staff.”

He added the bank had a campaign, in which they were giving people additional financial support to help their families in this tough time.

“We also doubled down on our wellbeing programme given people are under a lot of stress.

“The community work we do is pretty vital. MoneyMinded, our financial literacy program, in a good year typically, there’s about 100 sessions on financial literacy in the community.”

However, with restrictions on movement, Yazbek said the number was probably half which was around 52 to 53 sessions this year.

He said the bank was now launching the programme virtually so they were still able to deliver the training into more remote communities.

“So since September 2020, we’ve waived all the fees for foreign currency, international money transfers, which means we’re probably doing 20 to 21 per cent more of those transfers into Fiji than we typically would,” he added.

“That temporary waiver fees fell away last week and I’m glad to say that we’ve made it permanent now. So those fees won’t apply going forward and that helps everyone in the community so much to put money back into the country.”

He said given customers and businesses were struggling they had teams dedicated to financial hardship for their retail customers.

“And our commercial team has been working really hard to continue supporting businesses around the country. And the way we’ve done that is sort of every facet of the relationship you can think about.”

This was through reducing interest rates, removing loan administration fees, extending loans to prevent people from running into trouble with big payments, according to Yazbek.

“We’ve given temporary working capital relief, so rather than just focusing on the current loans we have out there for businesses, we’ve worked them to figure out what else they need to survive this period.

“And we’ve delivered additional working capital funding and we’ve allowed customers to also defer principal and interest if they can’t make those payments.”

He added it was really critical how we prepared with the reopening and the new world.

“How do you plan for different scenarios, from a cash flow perspective because whilst it’s going to be great to open the borders again, there’s still a lot of work and a lot of expense to be encountered, to get ready for that reopening,” he said.

Rehiring staff, retraining staff, restocking the bars and the fridges getting properties ready for tourists again, there’s a lot of work in doing that.

“And we’re focusing our energy on supporting the customers through that work that they’re about to do,” said Yazbek.