Coronavirus - an update from your Society

A message from our CEO, Andrew Haigh

6th April 2020

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, I want to re-assure you that we will continue to maintain our focus on doing everything we can to support our customers, colleagues and the communities we serve over the coming weeks and months.

We are paying close attention to guidelines issued by the Government and Public Health England and are constantly reviewing our approach as those requirements and guidelines change. Inevitably this will require further changes to our service as the situation evolves and we continue to prioritise keeping both our customers and our colleagues safe.

It is clear that we will be living and working through the challenges that the pandemic brings for quite some time yet and it is very likely that things will unfortunately, become worse before they get better. We all have our part to play – making sure that we observe all of the guidance we receive, while working to keep our services running as effectively as we can, for the benefit of you our customers.

Maintaining social distancing in our branches

We have been able to keep the majority of our branches open and will continue to do so where we can. However, in line with Government guidance, we would stress that you should only visit a branch if it is essential to do so. If you do need to visit one of our branches, please be aware that they are currently operating on reduced hours (currently 10am-2pm Monday-Friday) and these hours are constantly subject to review. Please check the Branch Finder on this website for up to date information on branch availability and opening times.

Please also be aware that there are a number of measures we are putting in place in our branches to protect our customers and colleagues. We are maintaining social distancing in our branches, including operating one in and one out access to conduct transactions. When inside our branches we would ask that you maintain at least a 2 metre (6ft) distance between yourself and our colleagues. We are limiting the service to critical and absolutely necessary transactions, and appreciate your ongoing support and understanding in these matters.

Supporting our communities

I am pleased to announce that the Society has become the first major donor to the Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund launched by The Community Foundation, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland in March.

We have donated £100,000 to get help quickly to local charities and community organisations that are helping the most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Total donations to the fund have now surpassed £500,000 and we hope this will help to support those who need it most and will serve to strengthen communities under pressure at this difficult time.

Keeping you safe from fraud

Unfortunately, circumstances such as the COVID-19 situation provide criminals with an opportunity to target individuals with fraudulent activity. There have been a number of reported cases so far including online shopping scams and false offers of financial support through emails, texts and phone calls. We urge customers to be vigilant and not to give out personal details (bank details, your PIN, passwords or address information).

If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, please contact us immediately on 0345 734 4345. You can find further information about the different types of fraud, the steps we take to protect you and how you can reduce your risk here.

Our Society AGM

The Government has issued instructions and restrictions on social gatherings, which have led us to make fundamental changes to our 2020 AGM when compared to our original plans for the meeting. This year the AGM will not be held at St. James’ Park as originally planned. It will now be held at 2.45pm on 22 April at the Society’s Principal Office (Portland House, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8AL). The event will be run on a reduced scale, with an emphasis on strict social distancing arrangements.

Our absolute priority in making these changes is supporting the well-being of our members and colleagues. We are therefore instructing members not to attend in person this year and unfortunately must advise you that anyone seeking to attend will regretfully be refused entry. We have not reached this decision lightly but during the Government’s current measures, we believe it is the most appropriate course of action.

However, we do still urge you to participate in the AGM by voting online at www.newcastle.co.uk/agm or you can return your voting form by post in the envelope provided. If you want to ask a question to our Board members please email events@newcastle.co.uk. We will post results from the AGM, together with answers to questions raised on our website.

Committed to helping you

We want to do everything we can to help our customers during this difficult period. If you are concerned about your financial situation please get in touch with us at the earliest opportunity; we have a range of options that we can consider in order to provide the support you need.

Mortgages

We are committed to supporting customers and landlords who experience difficulty with mortgage payments as a result of coronavirus. This includes providing payment holidays up to three months.

For more information on payment holidays and how to apply, please visit our Mortgage Payment Difficulties page

If you do need to speak to us then call our helpline number on 0345 702 3083. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Please note that we are currently experiencing a high volume of calls so your patience in waiting to speak to our mortgage support team is appreciated.

Savings

Our commitment is that customers who need to access their funds due to health issues, or difficulties caused by coronavirus, can do so quickly and without penalty. This commitment applies across all our savings products, with the exception of the Lifetime ISA, which has a separately applied government penalty.

If you need to withdraw your savings, you can speak to one of our friendly customer advisers over the phone. Please call us on 0345 734 4345. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Financial Advice

We are continuing to provide access to Financial Advisers by phone. They can be contacted by calling your local branch or our Financial Advice support team on 0345 600 4330.

Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Thank you for your support in keeping one another safe during these unprecedented times.

Andrew Haigh

Chief Executive