Czech banks welcome refugees but struggle to meet demand

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Tens of thousands of people fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine have already opened checking accounts with major Czech banks, the news site said.

The demand is such that queues are forming in some branches. Some potential customers have to wait days or even weeks to create accounts.

ČSOB bank has hired additional workers to cope with the huge demand, while staff at its Prague headquarters have been redeployed to help ease pressure on branches, iHned.cz reported.

A ČSOB spokesperson said its branches were seeing three times the usual amount of interest for creating accounts. The situation is particularly serious in Prague, which is the most common destination for refugees.

Raiffeisenbank told iHned.cz that it receives up to 2,000 new customers a day from Ukraine. A spokesman said the huge interest he was seeing was partly because the bank also exists in Ukraine, so it is familiar to refugees in the country.

This week, Raiffeisenbank launched Ukrainian-language versions of its mobile and internet banking services.

One of the reasons ČSOB is so overwhelmed is that it offers 2,500 CZK to all refugees who produce a Ukrainian passport when opening an account there, iHned.cz said.

The country’s largest bank, Česká spořitelna, says it has registered around 6,000 customers who have sought refuge in the Czech Republic. This week, he saw around 1,000 new Ukrainian customers a day, a spokesperson told iHned.cz.

This follows the opening last week of mobile branches of Česká spořitelna in seven regional centers in the Czech Republic where refugee assistance centers have been established. Other banks have done the same.

Deloitte banking expert Roman Lux told iHned.cz that banks are keen to provide humanitarian aid, but also want to prevent refugees from falling into the underground economy. He says they can also benefit financially in the long run.

The fact that Ukrainians are opening accounts in Czech is good news for the Czech public sector, whose employees will not have to pay state allowances to refugees in cash, says iHned.cz. For their part, new arrivals will spend less time in queues.

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