May 25, 2020
Meet the TD colleague helping customers through their COVID-19 financial hardships
TD is proud to employ more than 85,000 individuals across North America and around the world. Whether working from home or in our branches and offices, our colleagues have stepped up in remarkable ways to help our customers during the COVID-19 crisis. In our latest Meet TD series, we introduce you to some of the extraordinary people at TD who are providing valuable services and critical support for our customers, colleagues and communities.
When Alison Griffiths picks up the phone to start her workday, she's ready for any number of emotions to be directed at her by whoever is on the other end of the line.
Each day, the account manager with TD Helps – a specialized department at the Bank assisting customers facing financial hardship with advice and relief solutions, such as deferrals on credit card or mortgage payments – reaches out to a list of customers who have asked the bank for help in their time of need.
And each day since the COVID-19 pandemic began, these customers react to Griffith's help in diverse and very human ways.
"People who have been banking with us for a very long time have cried on the phone or gasped feeling relief or joy," Griffiths said. "But you also experience the opposite, where people are upset or angry."
To help with the increased volume of calls TD has received since the onset of the pandemic, Griffiths has signed up to work six days a week, usually clocking 10-hour days between Monday and Friday (and another six hours on Saturdays).
Griffiths said she feels honoured to be able to put in the extra time delivering real help to customers. With each call, she imagines it's her parents or a sibling calling in for help and treats them that way.
"Typically, people are happy that someone has called to give them help," Griffiths said. "But there are a lot of people who are scared or angry about their situation now, too."
There for customers in times of need
Before the pandemic, Griffiths said she and other members of the Customer Assistance team would each be referred an average of 20 cases a day to work through.
But because of the pandemic, her team once faced about 2,000 voice messages in one day, and about 26,000 cases to resolve during the peak of call and email volumes in March.
"We had about eight thousand emails sent to us from branches referring customers at one point," Griffiths said from the makeshift office she's set up at her home in London, Ontario.
"I've never experienced anything like this. It's a whole new demographic of callers. People who have been managing their money well for twenty or forty years are really worried about making their payments."
Griffiths said it's inspiring to see how much the bank can do to help people, and by collaborating with teams across the bank, including various product divisions, to help find solutions.
A common story and a special customer
If there's one case in particular that will likely resonate with Griffiths for a long time, she said it's a case involving a client who has banked with TD for more than 40 years. The customer called in to say he couldn't make his mortgage payment.
"The sweetest man called. He had a temporary disability after suffering a stroke but was ready to go back to work when the pandemic shut down his construction site," Griffiths said, adding she could hear the strain in the man's voice when she spoke with him.
"When I told him we could defer his mortgage payments for six months, including the two that were already past due, and that we could also waive interest on his credit card for three months, you could hear the pressure in his voice lift."
"He was so relieved saying he didn't know if we were being serious but that we had 'changed' his life."
Griffiths said the customer now calls her and leaves a voice message each week to thank her and let her know he is okay.
TD is working with Canadian customers on a case-by-case basis, providing financial relief to those who need it. This can include up to a six-month payment deferral for mortgages.
While other cases can be even more difficult to handle emotionally – including one customer who had lost their spouse to COVID-19 and suddenly had to manage their finances for the first time – Griffiths said she pushes through because she's realized so many people are in urgent need of help.
Standing by, in good times and in bad
The TD Helps program was established in 2008 during the financial crisis. To respond to the increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TD quickly increased the Customer Assistance team from just under 20 colleagues to more than 70, by training and redeploying a number of colleagues from other areas of the bank to help out.
Since March 15, TD Helps has assisted more than 35,000 customers facing financial hardship by deferring mortgage and/or credit card payments, and payments for personal loans, along with assisting with debt consolidation loans with lower interest rates. Many customers were able to apply for assistance through online forms created by the Bank to quickly automate these deferrals.
"This whole experience has changed me," said Griffiths. "I've realized what the scale of our impact can be."