Dear Mr. Batard, the world is facing an important health crisis due to Covid-19, European citizens are facing a difficult period and are fearing the economic difficulties that will follow. How do you think co-operative banks can play a role in this crisis ?
First of all, since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, French co-operative banks have ensured the continuity of essential services to members and customers, individuals and businesses, in order to maintain the economic activity of the country and meet the essential needs of each.
With more than 20,000 branches, most of which have remained open, they have implemented numerous support measures, in particular for businesses (with payment deadlines extensions and, of course, the study and allocation of loans strongly guaranteed by the State). While taking into account the imperatives of risk management, they have been able and know how to support businesses in the difficult economic situation that many of them are experiencing.
As banks for the territories and the local economy, they also support individual customers who may be in difficulty on a case-by-case basis. Welcoming the most vulnerable socially and financially, who do not always have access to electronic fiduciary means, is ensured by developing a set of electronic fiduciary solutions (single-use cards, ATM-specific codes, SMS withdrawal, etc.) in order to comply with health precautions.
Deconfinement is gradually taking place in all European countries. Co-operative banks will be keen to enable economic players to resume their activity, to avoid an increase in bankruptcies and excessive pressure on household resources. To do this, it will be necessary in the future to promote a more sober and environmentally friendly economy and to strengthen local development and proximity, as co-operatives do.
The strength of our co-operative groups, the density of our presence in the regions and the diversity of our expertise are more than ever essential assets to effectively support all customers in the search for suitable solutions. Our organization and our financial solidity allow us to fully play our role. Being at the side of all our customers in good and bad times, supporting the economic activity of companies, professionals and members, is the very reason for being a co-operative member.
Mr Batard, you are also Director General of the Confederation, could you please describe the actions undertaken by your organization to support your customers, members and the society in general during this difficult period ?
At the height of the crisis, 95% of our branches remained open, our central and IT services have greatly developed teleworking and we have continued to help and serve our clients. So in the first weeks of the crisis, we concentrated our forces in action because it was urgent: we had to support our customers and the economy. After systematically postponing loan maturities for businesses, the Crédit Mutuel group rapidly deployed State-guaranteed loans. 20 billion granted in support of companies affected by the Covid19 crisis should be soon reached.
Crédit Mutuel has implemented moratoriums without penalty or administrative fees, according to the procedures specific to each regional group, automatically or on a case-by-case basis at the customer's request (systematic postponement of maturities over 6 months, or of the capital alone for up to 6 months). More than 500,000 business loan contracts have thus benefited from moratoria, corresponding to the deferral of nearly €2 billion in monthly installments due since March. On a case-by-case basis, these measures also benefit individuals (more than 100,000 home loans have been extended in this way).
In addition, the Crédit Mutuel Group has created a mutual stimulus premium for its professional and SME clients, which have been particularly affected. In this way, Assurances du Crédit Mutuel offers an immediate flat-rate premium to customers who have taken out professional multi-risk insurance with business interruption. With an average amount of 7,000 euros (corresponding to a flat-rate estimate of loss of income), this premium, paid from the beginning of May, will mobilise almost 200 million euros.
As a bank for the local economy, Crédit Mutuel has also been able to collaborate with local authorities, as in the Grand Est Region, by creating "Dynamise", a local semi-public company (Seml) whose objective is to purchase equipment to respond to the health crisis, in particular blood test kits.
Lastly, Crédit Mutuel continues its co-operative governance by organising, via teleconference or remotely, general assemblies of local mutuals and regional federations and the entire confederal statutory life. The impact of the crisis requires a great deal of collective effort to maintain social and territorial cohesion. We must continue our fundamental role of supporting our members and the economy. We naturally continue to keep our brand and our co-operative identity alive through quality of service, good information and communication.