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3 Ways to Avoid Occupy Wall Street 2.0

In a COVID-19 world, the rich may not necessarily be getting richer, but it has become clear that the virus is taking a toll on lower income populations. And with this, the global pandemic is shining a light on income disparity.

Do you remember the last movement to highlight income inequality?Occupy Wall Street. The movement started in September 2011 as groups assembled at major financial districts and banks to make their voices heard about income distribution, bank reform, student loan forgiveness, and capitalism in general. Nearly 200 protestors camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district, ultimately costing the city $17 million.

So with the income inequality fresh on consumers’ minds, here are a few ideas on how banks and fintechs can be their ally instead of their perceived enemy.

Be flexible

While you don’t need to bend over backwards, offering some flexibility is key. And even though offering flexibility on payment plans can be essential, it’s not all consumers are looking for. Your call center, for example, is likely overloaded right now. Instead of having callers wait on hold, can you direct them to a chatbot or make an option for them to request a call back from an agent at a certain time?

Straying from traditional operations and bending some rules (in a compliant manner, of course!) can make a huge difference to a stressed-out consumer that is just looking for someone to understand their situation.

Be generous

You don’t have to forgive a customer’s mortgage payment for them to like you. Peer-to-peer payment company Venmo is doing a great job at engaging with its customers during this time. The company is depositing $20 into consumers’ accounts in exchange for their generosity toward healthcare workers or others in need.

Select an idea that works for your organization’s image. You can give away gift cards to Netflix or offer free gift cards to local restaurants for take away meals. The giveaways can be in under $10 and done at random or as a daily or weekly online drawing. For something more simple, you could host a larger cash giveaway with only one or two winners.

Show unity

Play a role in your community, even if it’s not an in-person effort. Advertise in the local paper that your staff is volunteering to drop off groceries for elderly citizens, display uplifting sayings to encourage passersby, or even place rolls of toilet paper on front steps of houses in nearby neighborhoods. If toilet paper isn’t your style, mail coloring sheets and simple art supplies to customers with small children. For smaller banks, publish the phone number of a representative who can help customers sort through financial issues.

Small actions can have big outcomes during a crisis like this. During a time when people are “looking for helpers” as Mr. Roger’s instructed, banks have a great opportunity to be the helpers in their community.