Banks reinvent, strive during pandemic

By: Associated Press, The Manila Times

BRISBANE: With the Covid-19 pandemic inflicting damage worldwide to people’s health and finances, and its duration highly uncertain, banks are one of the few industries considered essential to keeping economies lubricated.

Besides playing a critical role for their customers and employees, banks help to stabilize systems of lending, payments, trade and liquidity.

Branches have remained at least partially open. Good health practices mandate a timely supply of hand sanitizers, cleaning equipment, masks, gloves, and plastic or glass screens.

In addition, branches will need new protocols for traffic management, including selective closures, reduced opening hours, staggered access for customers and by-appointment-only meetings.

Banks have taken different measures according to the severity and length of the coronavirus outbreak. In South Korea, Shinhan, Woori and KB Kookmin shortened their branch service hours in certain provinces.

In the Philippines, the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), one of the top 10 lenders in the country, proved that pandemic is not a hindrance to efficient service as it has just been selected as the best digital bank for 2020.

“One Philippine bank stood out in particular for its efforts in the digital sector, going above and beyond in providing for every customer. That bank is RCBC,” said Asia Money, the award-giving body that bestowed the best digital bank for the entity.

Before the pandemic, RCBC had positioned itself to serve clients in the event they are cut off by a typhoon or other natural disaster.

One of the biggest projects the bank developed over the past years was a Taglish app, which combines English with Tagalog.

In Hong Kong, Bank of China, HSBC and Bank of East Asia closed one-fifth of branches in the network. In Italy, most banks reduced opening hours to the morning only. These measures obviously affected the volume of physical transactions, which sharply declined after the lockdowns.

Protective measures apply to a bank’s service providers as well. Software and other technology suppliers often work alongside banks’ own IT staff. Now these suppliers may be working at home, so banks must ensure they follow secure protocols and safety measures.