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Posted by Benjamin Ensor on May 19, 2012
These are worrying times for people across Europe as the euro lurches towards another crisis, with leaders talking openly about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro and reports of customers starting to withdraw deposits from banks in Greece and Bankia in Spain.
It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such powerful forces, but fundamentally the repeated euro crises are about two things: debt and confidence. Lots of individuals, small companies, banks and governments across Europe have a large amount of debt, and lenders -- depositors, investors and other banks -- aren't completely confident that all of them will be able to pay it back. It's critical to avoid a vicious spiral of declining confidence that will harm Europe's economic prospects and the livelihoods of its peoples.
What can bank eBusiness executives do about it? Remember that you control two of your bank's critical communication channels: the website and email. Use them to reassure customers. How?
From a brief search this morning most European banks are publicly ignoring current events. A few banks mention passing the European Central Bank's stress tests on their website, such as National Bank of Greece. One or two provide advice on help with mortgage repayments, such as Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland. Bankinter has a new link for 'Transferencias desde otras entidades' (transfers from other banks), but even that doesn't explain why customers might want to do that or trust Bankinter. Most banks' websites make no mention of anything related to financial strength or the state of Europe's economies. Even Bankia is saying nothing. Almost absurdly, many banks highlight detailed information about the Payment Services Directive, as if that's top of mind for customers.
Perhaps I'm wrong and silence is the best policy. But I think it's always a mistake to underestimate your customers. What good practices have you seen? How do you think eBusiness executives should handle this?
Postscript. As if to confirm my impression that banks ought to be reassuring their customers, the headline article in the Money section in Saturday's Guardian newspaper in the UK was 'The Eurozone Crisis: Five Ways It Affects You'. This is Money, part of Associated Newspapers, has an article about whether deposits in Santander UK are safe (they are).