People’s Bank’s unrelenting drive to serve the nation during COVID-19 Over 70% of branches kept open

  • One of the first banks to act on the CBSL relief program
  • Uninterrupted banking access from the onset of the lock down. Over 70% of its branches/ service centers kept open
  • Uncompromising health and safety standards

There are responsibilities that are inherent in a state bank when it comes to a national crises.  The almost complete closure of the Sri Lankan economy since the COVID-19 lock down on March 16th was surely a national crisis bringing about unprecedented challenges with a fear of the financial distress to come and the unknown. For People’s Bank, a trait that has always remained at the heart of its business is the unrelenting drive to serve the nation in any circumstances, and with COVID-19 bringing with it financial distress, the Bank took action. This they did so with the support from its entire Board of Directors, senior management and team showcasing unbridled dedication in maintaining business as usual with the highest levels of engagement, 24 x 7 accessibility and being in situ throughout.

There was never a time People’s Bank closed its doors. It’s ethos of being the bank for the people that runs strongly in its veins saw over 70% of all its branches and all its self-banking units being fully operational while ensuring absolute health and safety measures being implemented for team members and customers visiting the branches and self service centers. Customer service support hotlines functioned throughout, all POS machines were kept active and over 400 locations were visited by the Bank’s Mobile Banking Units which facilitated over LKR 200 million in withdrawals for cash-strapped customers in some of the most remote parts in the country. Online engagement via multiple social media channels significantly enhanced the Bank’s visibility and brand strength.

It was also among the first banks in the country to act on the CBSL relief package offering over 400,000 of its retail customers financial relief in a time of need, while also being in the process of disbursing nearly 4,100 applications for working capital loans to small business owners, amounting to approximately LKR 8.5 billion. Whilst these are yet in process, further are expected to be processed in the near term. Further to ease customer engagement, People’s Bank established a dedicated customer care unit to answer queries on the CBSL relief programmes and was amongst the first to accept customer requests, the circumstances considered, via SMS, Whats App and even Viber

Aligned with the directive, the Bank stopped all deductions and refunded most installments already deducted for the month of March 2020.  All pawning auctions too were halted and any penalties across products were fully waived during the said period. Credit card minimum payments were reduced by 50%.

Heeding the clarion call of the Government to assist areas of the economy facing dire straits, the Bank extended over LKR 150 billion in financial facilities, of which over LKR 140 billion disbursed to the State and other State Owned Enterprises. In this context, it must be pointed out that, during the first three months of 2020, the Bank recorded a credit growth of 10.9% as compared with 5.0% reported by the industry during the same period. In addition, with its public sector responsibility and private sector mindset, People’s Bank was called upon to add its expert opinions via its Chairman Sujeewa Rajapakse who was appointed by the President into an expert panel to devise on Economic and Business Strategy from a banking and financial services perspective. 

And meanwhile, the product portfolio expanded, timely and well thought out. The Aswenna loan scheme specifically aimed at making the agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry value chain self-sufficient was relaunched. Sarusara, a comprehensive rural credit scheme and Vanitha Saviya a loan scheme for micro and small scale women entrepreneurs was initiated to much success. With working from home and school from home becoming the norm, People’s Bank also extended several schemes in technology facilitation for teachers, undergraduates of the medical, engineering and IT faculties and law and accountancy firms. 

Reiterating the significant contribution made to the economy by migrant workers, People’s Bank aligned with a CBSL directive and launched a special deposit account with a very attractive interest rate to encourage inward remittances and higher levels of retention. The Bank also ensured there was no interruption in overall payment flows even during the height of the lock down with all inward, outward and IBT SLIPS transactions carried out even during the most difficult circumstances

In addition, early this month, People’s Bank undertook the responsibility of facilitating repayments to the aggrieved depositors of The Finance Company Limited from CBSL’s deposit insurance fund. 60 branches are expected to make distributions close to 143,000 depositors of The Finance Company Limited

The Bank for the people is manned by a highly motivated team who deserve kudos for their dedication in continuing business as usual in unusual times. This dedication therefore came with rewards.  The Bank’s staff were also provided relief from loan deductions. The Bank is exploring newer initiatives for working conditions suited for the ‘new normal’ including flexi working hours and increasing online working collaboration. Needless to say, its commitment to serve its customers remains unwavering and its drive for betterment even under difficult circumstances remains unrelenting!

 



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