We are living in difficult times. COVID-19 has forced children out of schools, elderly into further isolation and most significantly, it has exposed the crippling social inequalities that the most vulnerable in our communities have endured for far too long. While the rest of New Zealand are on lockdown, essential workers are sacrificing time away from their loved ones to ensure that the country runs smoothly and safely. This mini series aims to raise awareness, encourage hope and honour our people working on the frontline during COVID-19.
Laura Lolohea Polota is a Product Manager at Westpac. The crisis has had a devastating impact on customers with the loss of employment, income and financial stability. Laura shares about how they have been coping during this time.
My name is Laura Lolohea Polota and I am a Product Manager at Westpac. I manage the end-to-end process for a number of our products, and provide support to our front line teams that work directly with our business customers, and specifically, when it comes to managing deposits/cash, and transactional requirements.
This lockdown most definitely has affected our customers, personal and business alike. For example, businesses that aren't essential cannot operate. A lot of these businesses depend on being open to generate cash flow to pay their staff, pay bills, and feed their families. That means a lot of businesses are seeking increases to their overdrafts, converting loans to interest-only, taking mortgage repayment holidays on their personal debt, or breaking term deposits that they had locked away.
Image: Folio Illustration Agency
Those that still operate are doing so remotely, and the way in which they do business has also had to change a lot. Getting used to a virtual dynamic won't be easy, and there will be people who struggle to collaborate over email, Skype or Zoom. It's just a different world out there now.
I can't share specifics unfortunately, but what I'm hearing from our front line is that they have been absolutely slammed with customers just seeking some form of relief on their cash. This lockdown would've been a dramatic change to those who who haven't been 'saving for a rainy day', because how could anyone have predicted this? Businesses have to close down and lay off their staff, and people's livelihoods are gone, just like that.
In my job, I performs critical tasks for the bank. When the government or Reserve Bank make decisions that affect the finance industry, let alone the country, my team and I are there to implement and communicate those changes which would impact our customers. What my team and I want to do is make sure that during this time of uncertainty when our front line needs guidance, we can provide it to them because that in turn helps provide clarity to our customers. I just knew that I had to work to support our staff and our customers through these unprecedented times. Do not be afraid to talk to your bank! We are here to help.
How lucky are we to live in a time where technology can keep us connected to families & friends during this lockdown? It may not be the same, but it sure is better than having to learn Morse code or send telegraphs! Take a deep breath, take each day as it comes, and don't ever be ashamed to ask for help. We really are all in this together.
STAY HOME. SAVE LIVES.
0800REFUGE- Women’s Refuge
0508FAMILY- Oranga Tamariki (Reports of concern for children’s safety)
0508 744 633- SHINE
0800 787 797- Alcohol and drug helpline
0800 543 354 or free text 4357- Lifeline
0800 376 633 - Youthline
0800 111 757 Depression Helpline
0508 828 865 Suicide Prevention Helpline