Loan grace periods in high demand – robots speed up application processing

Grace periods for home loans have been in high demand in Finland since mid-March. According to the biggest banks, the number of requests has grown rapidly, peaking at ten times the normal amount. Now the demand is beginning to level out. Banks have worked through the backlog using additional resources as well as robotics and other automated solutions.

The coronavirus has caused much worry among customers, who are uncertain of their financial standing in the future. Many have already been temporarily or even permanently laid off. Changed circumstances have manifested as higher activity in loan restructuring, for example in the utilisation of grace periods.

Banks have sought to speed up the processing of applications in many ways. Employees’ tasks have been reorganised, and additional resources put into service across business units and functions. Work has continued in the evening and over the weekend.

Banks have also utilised robotics to deal with the large volume of applications. OP Financial Group, for example, reported that the use of robots has allowed them to pre-process several thousands of grace period requests per day. Danske Bank and Nordea also utilise robotics in their processes, although most of the work is done manually.

According to OP, application processing is exactly the kind of work that suits a robot: it requires precision and speed. Robots also comply with regulation and data security requirements just as scrupulously as their human counterparts.

In late April, 142,000 households had already applied for a grace period, according to a survey Finance Finland sent out to its member banks. Nearly all applications processed so far have been approved.

Grace periods and other loan detail flexibilities are voluntary decisions each bank makes at its own discretion.