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Establishing trust among communities

Filed on August 31, 2020 | Last updated on August 31, 2020 at 11.52 am
Rola Abu Manneh, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank UAE

Rola Abu Manneh, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank UAE, explains how the bank is supporting its customers, and the UAE at large, beat the effects of the pandemic.

Covid-19 is creating a world of uncertainities for all of us today. Both individuals and businesses are rightly quetioning the banking scenario today, and SCB is no immune to the questions posed by our clients. We must have open communication and answer all of these doubts and questions for both individuals and businesses, maintaining the long-standing trust that people expect from their bank. Trust is key for people during this time of uncertainty and banks must lead the way for establishing trust amongst communities.

Banks have a role to play now where it is not about us, but about the communities in which we are involved and how we can help our economy. It is no secret that certain industries are struggling in this moment of uncertainty such as hospitality, tourism and retail - all sectors that each and every one of us contribute to on a daily basis, until Covid-19 changed our lives. These sectors continue to lose millions of dollars that was simply not predicted for owners or shareholders, creating a number of knock on effects such as job losses and business closures. So how can this be prevented? The simple answer is that banks must help keep these key industries alive.

Banks have the power to avoid a potential recession and maintain the operation for a number of businesses throughout the region due to the amount of liquidity available. However, for banks to do their job properly one must wonder how well capitalised and the liquidity options are available in these banks.

Couple of days ago, the UAE central bank said that while the coronavirus pandemic poses challenges to banks. "Our stress tests demonstrate that the UAE banking sector is able to withstand macro-financial shocks of any size".

The capital adequacy rate among the UAE banks stood at 16.9 per cent as of the end of March and the eligible liquid asset rate was 16.6 per cent as of the end of May - "well in excess of the minimum regulatory requirements", it said. So, the banking sector in the UAE can withstand any scale of shock, while supporting its customers as banks are well capitalised, despite forecasting a deterioration of credit metrics in the country.

Initiatives to help the affected
At Standard Chartered, we have a number of solutions to help clients during the times of uncertainty.
During Q1 we launched a series of charitable funds and financial assistance to aid those affected by the crisis. Through our global commitment of $1bn to finance businesses, will see long term progression in many markets. In March, we launched $50mn relief fund for those affected by Covid-19.

This commitment has been vital during this time. Banks lead the way when it comes to money management and people will always look to our actions for guidance. If we can set a precedent with this commitment to encourage others to follow, then we get another step closer to ending this pandemic we are all faced with.

Helping through a relief fund is just part of what our responsibility is here. We have a duty of care to our clients and communities and Standard Chartered have ensured that we remain as involved in our communities as possible, helping to drive support for the healthcare industry during this time of need.
Those that are able to support and help the healthcare sector during this time should do so. Standard Chartered is at the forefront of supporting the healthcare sector. It  has donated 15,000 N95 masks to the Authority of Social Contribution to aid medical professionals in the fight against Covid-19.

The bank has also donated over Dh180,000 to the Emirates Red Crescent and over Dh500,000 to three local charities in the UAE, in support of their Covid-19-related emergency response efforts, including immediate medical relief, access to food and assistance for vulnerable families and individuals.  

Working across nations
Our $1bn investment has already made a difference in one of the UAE's key trading partner: Africa, helping to provide PPE for those working on the front line. Joint Medical Line in Uganda was the first institution to use the available funds, with $2.2mn funds for medical supplies which of course have been urgently needed. Critical care equipment in hospitals is also being provided through the funds so it is vital that we play this role in investments for businesses who can help prevent the spread of this virus.

Businesses across the Middle East and Africa that are helping on healthcare are constantly working with us so that we can help support as many countries across the region. We are in touch with manufacturers and distributors in the pharmaceutical industry through to healthcare providers to help provide these vital funds for our communities.

Of course, during these times of uncertainty for businesses there is a focus on healthcare and the support for work in this sector, but the role of banks does not stop there.

Communication is key
Information is key during crisis times. We recognise this and are working above and beyond to keep people updated on their finances, through our enhanced communication efforts.

Through communication, we can make a difference to the worries of our individual customers and our words of support and expertise have been backed by actions. We must put our customers first, and, like I said earlier, we cannot worry about our own liquidity during this time. Our worry and concern has to be for our customers.

We have introduced a three-month payment holiday on existing personal loans, car loans and mortgages, the option to pay only the interest component of an existing loan for a period of three months, a 50 per cent reduction on credit card cash advance fees, a refund of any foreign currency transaction fees on cancelled travel bookings and the option to convert selected fees and purchases into equal monthly instalments at zero per cent interest and no processing fees.

This wide range of options introduced to our customers across the region will positively impact the lives of millions of people. We must be clear in communicating to business and individual about the options that they have for their finances and let them know that there is a solution. There is always a trusted bank that is well-capitalised.

There will undoubtedly be fear amongst people about borrowing money during these times, but banks, are committed to helping the right businesses and individuals to maintain a sense of normal life during these times. People have to keep trust in their bank and remember that we are here, in your community, with you and for you.

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