As you try to sort your finances out, the bank rings you night and day, and you have no idea how to deal with them, "BNMLINK is here to assist you," says Datin Arlina Ariff, Director of BNMLINK, one of Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) most important points of contact with the general public.
"I see all these news reports about how difficult it is with the banks when it comes to paying their loans," she told reporters at a media briefing about BNMLINK.
"Maybe they have no information. You can always restructure your loan and we always tell them no matter what, talk to the bank."
BNMLINK started in 2005 after the Central Bank saw the need to set up a public-friendly department that provides face-to-face customer service to walk-in visitors on general inquiries and complaints. BNM's TeleLINK was created shortly after for call-ins and email services.
The idea, Arlina said, was to have a pro-consumer one-stop information centre for anything related to the financial sector — BNMLINK was to become a sort of powerful support base for those who feel bullied by the banks.
"People sometimes don't like how banks treat them," she said. "So we genuinely listen to their problems and try and come up with resolutions."
BNMLINK together with BNM have "acted" and provide resolutions for almost half the complaints, including imposing penalties against some banks, according to Arlina.
On a busy day, BNMLINK can take up to 2,500 inquiries and complaints on average. Arlina said most of them are inquiries or complaints from customers with a central credit reference information system (CCRIS) record.
CCRIS, the database for all your credit information, records all late loan or debt payments. It is unclear if the high number of inquiries is indicative of the size of high-risk loans.
Inquiries related to loan repayment was only the fourth most frequently asked questions, suggesting low awareness about debt restructuring options banks give to struggling debtors.
And even among those who have reached BNMLINK for help, Arlina said they often do so when it's too late.
"A day before the bank is about to foreclose their homes or take legal action, that's when they call," she said.
Still, BNMLINK believes it must try harder to be more visible. Arlina said her department has organised educational forums to be held around the country, and that she would personally attend them.
"We need more opportunity to promote LINK...most people don't know about the services we have," she said.
Visit http://www.bnm.gov.my/bnmlink/ for more info.