How lockdown blindsided some banks into closing branches

Thursday April 2 2020

Precaution: Customers line up outside Equity

Precaution: Customers line up outside Equity Bank yesterday. Some banks have put in place cautionary measures such as hand sanitisers at their Automated Teller Machines. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By ASHITA CHOPRA & CHRISTINE KASEMIIRE

President Museveni’s directive to shut down private transport and invoke a curfew has blindsided some banks which, as a result, failed to operate some branches on Tuesday.
Notices released by Centenary Bank and Absa indicated that some branches in Kampala did not work on Tuesday as a result of the new stringent measures announced by President Museveni on Monday night.
“Please note that our branches may open late due to the current lockdown. We are working out the travel schedules for our staff to serve you with ease,” the Centenary Bank notice read in part.

Speaking to the Daily Monitor, Mr Fabian Kasi, the chief executive officer (CEO) Centenary Bank, said “It is due to transport and movement complications that some branches are not opening today.”
He also added that branches located near places where movement has been restricted will be affected.

However, other bank branches will remain open.
According to the notice, some of the open branches on Tuesday included; Mapeera, Kireka, Nateete, Ntinda and Rubaga.
Some Absa branches especially those in Kampala, were also affected by the total shutdown.
A statement by the bank indicated that due to a need to harmonise its operations with security organs, the regulator and all relevant authorities, Absa Kampala branches were kept closed on Tuesday to allow the bank time to put in place the necessary logistics to facilitate its staff to access the branches with minimal disruptions.
“All the branches outside Kampala are currently open for business and Absa Uganda management has ensured all staff adhere to Ministry of Health Standard Operating Procedures,” Ms Harriette Kasirye, head of marketing and corporate communications Absa bank, said.

Downsizing branches
While most of the banks have since opened for operation, there has been a reduction in branches.
For instance, Absa has only nine branches operating within Kampala and Greater Kampala area including Kampala Road, Entebbe and Mukono among others.
Stanbic bank, which was fully operational on Tuesday, sent a notice to its customers that it was temporarily closing 15 branches spread across the country.
“...We have taken various measures to ensure safe management of this situation while continuing to effectively serve you,” the notice reads in part, highlighting temporary closure of branches such as Lugogo, Mulago, Makerere, Kumi and Pakwach.
According to Ms Cathy Adengo, Stanbic bank head of corporate communications, the closed branches are located in areas that have been closed such as malls or schools.
The branches, she says will be closed following timelines in line with government directives until further advice is provided.

In addition, Stanbic has also reduced its working hours from 5p.m as was earlier communicated to 3p.m on weekdays and 12p.m for some branches on the weekend.
This follows Bank of Uganda and other financial institutions’ reduction in working hours over the increased spread of the Covid-19.
Banks must now operate from 9 in the morning to 3p.m during weekdays.

Remain open
However, other banks like Equity maintain that all their branches remain fully operational.
“Dear clients, all our Equity bank branches are currently open between 9am to 3pm. All our branches are operational and over 70 per cent of our Equiduuka agents were working,” Mr Anthony Kituuka, Equity Bank chief executive officer, said.
In further efforts to mitigate spread of the virus, some banks have put in place cautionary measures such as hand sanitisers at their Automated Teller Machines as well as advising clients to use more of their online services.
Uganda currently has 44 positive cases of Covid-19.

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editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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