Research Outline

Banks' communication during pandemias


To have case studies, market research, and general tactics on how banks can communicate and show strength online (newsletters, webinars etc) with customers, given the difficulties of in-person events in the context of coronavirus. For case studies: to understand what competitors like Citi Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs etc are doing, and also a look at what was done during the last recession and the last outbreak (sars).

Early Findings

Citi Bank Case Study

  • Most information about Citi is focused on strategic decisions. For example, Citi Bank is expanding travel curbs on employees.
  • Citi Bank is also waiving fees for retail customers affected by the virus.
  • Citi Bank is positioning itself as able to help customers affected by the virus. On their homepage they have a banner saying "Let us know how we can help", however the information on their help page is focused on the above-mentioned fee waivers and on encouraging customers to access the bank online.
  • The bank is also offering credit line increases and forebarence programs, however it seems these are not new.
  • Going by Citi Bank's press releases and blog, they do not yet seem to have a major plan to communicate strength, as none of their press releases are geared towards that, and their recent blog posts have focused on Black History Month, financial inclusion, and data flows with Singapore.
  • Likewise, on social media, Citi Bank isn't yet addressing the virus, nor communicating any sort of financial strength - going by their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. A lot of their social media content is focused on social responsibility, like women's empowerment and expanding the minority banking sector.

General Communication Tips

  • When putting together a crisis communications plan, Pushkin PR says the following elements are important: a chain of command for fielding media enquiries, prepared holding statements for addressing coronavirus exposure, and work from home policies. They also suggest a dedicated webpage for coronavirus communications.

Communication after 2008

  • In terms of customer and client communication, the 2008 recesion was a bit different, because the banks were seen by many to be a leading cause of the crisis. Communication then, had to focus on being informative and honest. Given that, we think it would be more useful to focus research on how banks coped with the 2002 SARS outbreak, even though social media was less devleoped at the time.

Information availability

  • Currently, the information our initial research suggests is available for financial institutions adapting to volatile markets is focused more on the business strategy side wtih little public information on communications / public relations / marketing.
  • Likewise, information on individual banks and what they are doing, tends to focus on their business strategy and on their precautionary measures. Overviews of how different large companies are coping note that a lot of them have cancelled large events, but don't note what they are organizing as alternatives. It seems that so far, most companies haven't got that far.
  • There is some vague information about measures companies are taking. For example, "Publicis has recommended prioritising conference calls, Skype meetings and video conferences where possible."