Czech banks welcoming refugees but struggling to meet demand
Czech banks are making efforts to welcome Ukrainian refugees, who have arrived in the country in their hundreds of thousands in recent weeks. However, they are struggling to meet demand for new accounts, iHned.cz reported on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of people fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine have already set up current accounts with Czech high street banks, the news site said.
Demand is so great that queues are forming at some branches. Some would-be customers are having to wait days, or even several weeks, to set up accounts.
The bank ČSOB has taken on extra workers to deal with the huge demand, while staff from its Prague head office have been redeployed to help ease the strain on branches, iHned.cz reported.
A spokesperson for ČSOB said its branches were seeing three times the usual amount of interest in setting up accounts. The situation is particularly acute in Prague, which is the most common destination for refugees.
Raiffeisenbank told iHned.cz that it was getting up to 2,000 new clients a day from Ukraine. A spokesperson said the enormous interest it was seeing was partly due to the fact the bank also exists in Ukraine, so is familiar to refugees from the country.
This week Raiffeisenbank launched Ukrainian-language versions of its mobile and internet banking services.
One reason ČSOB is so swamped is that it is offering CZK 2,500 to all refugees who produce a Ukrainian passport when opening accounts there, iHned.cz said.
The country’s biggest bank, Česká spořitelna, says it has registered around 6,000 clients who have sought refuge in the Czech Republic. This week it has seen around 1,000 new Ukrainian customers a day, a spokesperson told iHned.cz.
This follows the opening last week of mobile Česká spořitelna branches in seven regional centres in the Czech Republic where assistance centres for refugees have been set up. Other banks have been doing the same thing.
Deloitte banking expert Roman Lux told iHned.cz that the banks were keen to provide humanitarian assistance but also want to prevent refugees from falling into the grey economy. He says they may also benefit financially in the long run.
The fact Ukrainians are setting up accounts in Czech is good news for the Czech public sector, whose employees will not have to hand out state allowances to refugees in cash, iHned.cz sais. For their part the new arrivals will spend less time in queues.