“The banker is there to help you: talk to him if you are having problems!”

Eric Dralans

The care programme has sent society the signal that financial institutions are there primarily to help their customers. If they take out credit, the bank will do all it can to help them repay that credit. In the case of major bankruptcies, closures or restructurings that take a heavy social toll, the sector is ready to help along with the government, just as happened with Ford in Genk, ArcelorMittal in Liège or Caterpillar in Charleroi. But it quickly appeared that this is not limited to those companies: the care programme is there for all customers of all banks who have financial problems for every conceivable reason.

Why is a care programme necessary?

Erik Dralans, Chairman of the banking working group: Consumers who are faced with a financial problem often hesitate to go and talk about it with their banker. And yet the bank can often offer a solution to their financial problems. But then the banks have to know that the problems exist. This is why the care programme was launched: we want to encourage anyone who is at risk of encountering problems to visit their banker proactively, before the problem becomes insurmountable and unsolvable. To raise awareness, we are also calling on the public authorities and various social authorities. Together with us, they will ensure that our message reaches the people who need it.

Has the care programme already produced concrete results?

Setting up the care programme ensured that everyone knows we are ready to help: consumers, businesses, government, social partners, etc. Within the files of Ford Genk, ArcelorMittal and Caterpillar, we also mapped out the problems, both for the companies and their suppliers and for the individual companies. That was the first phase.

In phase two, there have already been contacts between the financial institutions and various suppliers. Employees, however, can only be approacheded after a social plan emerges. From that moment, however, the care programme will continue file by file, not at sector level, but with the banks concerned.

Our work will only be able to be assessed within a few months. But let us be clear: this is not a one-off exercise. We set up the care programme for every customer who experiences financial difficulties, now and in the future.