Barclays has apologized to small businesses having “problems” with applications for government-backed emergency loans.
The bank said it has approved more than 50,000 loans worth more than £ 1.5 billion from the ‘Bounce Back’ program to support businesses affected by the coronavirus The crisis – 100% guaranteed by the government – was launched on Monday.
But he acknowledged that the process was not working for some, after the Commons Treasury Select Committee wrote to the bank about continuing reports of difficulties in submitting claims.
Barclays said: “We are sorry that some customers are having trouble applying on our website and may receive an error message.
“We need additional information from these customers in order to complete their application and will be updating our systems shortly to provide much clearer information on what we expect from them in order to move their application forward.”
The apology came as the bank countered criticism on multiple fronts, including from protesters and investors challenging it over climate change, as it held its London AGM behind closed doors.
The government-backed Bounce Back program was launched on Monday.
That day, the bank said its portal experienced high demand and access was limited to ensure safe delivery of the system, but denied that there had been a technical failure.
Customers continued to complain of difficulties on Thursday.
One of them tweeted: “I’m having trouble logging into my account to request the #bouncebackloan from #barclays. I’m now locked out. Is there any help asking the loan and the professional call taking more than 2 hours of waiting! “
Barclays said most requests were straightforward and processed automatically, but in some cases manual verification by a staff member would be required.
The broader banking sector has also been accused of dragging its feet on payments from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Program (CBILS) – announced by the Chancellor in March.
The amounts available are greater than those of the Bounce Back plan and the lenders take 20% of the risk.
Industry body UK Finance reported on Thursday that more than £ 5.5bn had been paid out to small and medium-sized businesses under CBILS – an increase of £ 1.4bn from the previous week.
Bank assistance was one of many issues to emerge ahead of Barclays’ AGM, which included a commitment to help tackle climate change.
Hours earlier, the facade of Barclays’ Canary Wharf headquarters in London was targeted by the Extinction Rebellion group, which sprayed what they called ‘fake oil’ on the windows.
They said it was to protest the bank’s financial support for energy and utility companies.
President Nigel Higgins said in a statement ahead of the meeting: “The size and scale of our company means we can really help accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.”
The AGM saw the board win overwhelming support from investors for its pledges to tackle climate change while an alternative climate resolution proposed by the Share Action campaign group was defeated – all still attracting a significant 24% of the vote.
Meanwhile, Mr Higgins has expressed regret over the cancellation of the bank’s dividend at the request of the Bank of England.
He told investors the move had an “immediate and unwanted” impact on shareholders, adding that the bank could have afforded the payment.