The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) subsidy has shielded many Canadians from the full impact of COVID-19. When the pandemic hit in March and job losses skyrocketed, CERB was quickly put in place, paying unemployed Canadians $500 a week. Since April, 8.5 million people have received the benefit. It has played a crucial role in insulating them from financial hardship, as well as stimulating the economy.
On September 27, CERB will end, forcing most (an estimated 82 percent) of the 4.5 million Canadians who still rely on it to switch to EI, or lose their income. Many of these are low-wage earners who have suffered disproportionately from COVID, and/or come from hard-hit sectors such as hospitality, retail, and travel.
While experts suggest the shift will likely have macroeconomic impacts such as a further reduction in consumer spend and a sharp increase in personal insolvencies, on a more micro level, there will be a massive population of consumers with more immediate and defined financial needs than ever before.
These consumers will be looking to their financial institutions for direction. It will be a critical juncture for FIs, putting them under considerable pressure and public scrutiny. But it also offers them an opportunity to strengthen their leadership. Canadian banks are known around the world for their prudence and stability; they will need to communicate these attributes as they reinforce their role as trusted providers of financial guidance.
Covid communications have proven tricky handling for many brands, and this will no doubt be the case for Canadian FIs navigating this next phase of our pandemic experience. They will need to balance confidence with comfort, professional with personal. Ultimately, they will need to let consumers know that, whatever their circumstances, they’ve come to the right place.
The coming weeks and months will test many customer relationships, and be a reality check for those seeking silver-bullet solutions. Ultimately, the post-CERB climate could drive more consumers to alternative lenders.
At the same time, for the financial brands that can strike the right communications balance, there is the potential to build new relationships and strengthen old ones.