ATB customer calls show economic improvement

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX:  The overall decreases in calls pertaining to “severe financial hardship” as well as loan consolidations show that Alberta’s economy may be starting to slowly recover.

There’s no doubt that the current economic downturn has been difficult for many Albertans. But, a recent analytics study of ATB Financial’s own Customer Care Centre (our team that helps customers) shows that the economic situation here in Alberta may slowly be getting better.

The study showed that approximately 5,000 calls (two per cent of the total call volume during the study dates) to the Customer Care Centre were regarding “severe financial hardship”—customers who are facing severe financial hardship are delinquent on their payments for more than three months. While seemingly a lot of calls, that’s a drop of about 30 per cent compared to a year earlier.

The number of people who proactively called to consolidate their loans or refinance had also dropped (-22 per cent). The latest study showed that 1,659 customers phoned in regards to restructuring compared to 2,242 a year earlier.

Despite these signs of optimism, there was a five per cent increase from last year in the number of calls pertaining to “moderate financial strain”. These are clients who have missed more than one payment and are calling to inquire about deferring more payments. These customers may be unsure about their job prospects and ability to pay in the future. The increase in calls relating to missed payments and job uncertainty are not surprising, especially given Alberta’s mounting unemployment rate at the time.

It’s true that the rise in calls regarding missed payments and job uncertainty could evolve into something even more difficult. However, the overall decreases in calls pertaining to “severe financial hardship” as well as loan consolidations show that Alberta’s economy may be starting to slowly recover.

ATB Financial’s Economics & Research Team        January 11, 2017

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