Reshape banking to serve clients better – Stanbic

Tuesday July 28 2020

Ms Anne Juuko, chief executive

Ms Anne Juuko, chief executive officer of Stanbic Bank Uganda. PHOTO/COURTESY 

By Ashita Chopra

What role has Stanbic played in supporting the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic and what lessons can be drawn from this experience for banking sector?
From the start of the pandemic, we recognised the devastating impact Covid-19 would have on our customers and the ripple effect on the economy. As a result, Stanbic took a quick action to provide the necessary and urgent support to our clients, employees and the wider communities in which operate.
We put in place measures to ensure the health and safety of our customers and employees. It was and still is critical to minimise infections, so we implemented the necessary health precautionary measures by placing sanitisers at the various touch points, including ATMs, branches and Stanbic offices across the country as well as adhering to the necessary social distancing measures.
With the precautionary measures in place, we continued to provide banking services and kept a 80 per cent of our branches open to ensure our customers had access to our services.
We waived all charges on our digital banking platforms so that customers could transact free of charge on our platforms such as online banking and mobile banking systems to make day-to-day payments and account to mobile money transactions.
We also offered credit relief programmes to business and personal customers tailored to suit their circumstances. Our aim was to ensure that we see that their businesses are sustained and the impact on the economy is minimised.
We doubled our investment in corporate social responsibility to enhance all efforts to support vulnerable communities during the pandemic. Our spend for first half is 150 per cent over and above our budget to ensure we provided the much-needed support in communities and to the government through the provision of protective gear and fuel for front line workers complimented by our partnership with the Uganda Bankers Association.
We have continued to enhance our efforts to support education, the key pillar of our social investments. We pivoted and changed our approach to delivering our education programmes through the National Schools Championship which were delivered virtually to students and the public via radio, live television, Facebook live, twitter.
The bank hosted an inaugural Education Forum bringing together private sector players to discuss how the private sector can support the government in enhancing education with a focus on skilling
students especially in the new normal.
Stanbic Bank remains committed to its purpose, Uganda is our home, we drive her growth, and through our interventions we shall continue to support our customers and communities by standing together through this trying time and working to make their dreams possible as evidenced in our new promise IT Can Be.

Lessons learned
With a global event of this magnitude, the pandemic has brought forth many lessons not only for Stanbic but for the sector as whole.
The first and most important aspect was to place people first. This has always been the priority for Stanbic and taking care of our team member’s health and well-being as we have navigated through the pandemic.
We wanted to ensure everyone maintained a good mental state and was given enough time to adjust to the changes happening around them. Managers regularly always checked on their teams and we provided health care support.
As business, we have been able to prove our strength as market leader having successfully implemented our business resilience plans that have sustained the bank and enable us to provide the necessary services to our customers even during a crisis.
I’m proud of this fact because we were able to continue helping our clients while operating in a different environment that has also pushed us to rethink our operating models and still achieve efficiency.
We accelerated digitisation agenda to ensure we continue to provide more innovative and efficient banking services to our clients. We focused heavily on ensuring our digital platforms provide all the necessary services that our clients need.
As a result, we have reinvented how we serve our clients in order to create real value and the skills sets of our teams must be aligned to the new requirements. We have therefore, placed more focus on skills around complex problem solving, critical thinking, cloud, Data and Cyber security which have now been elevated.
Agility in business planning has been critical. We have had to rethink several processes in order to adapt and reshape our focus areas as these instantly changed with Covid -19.
We have changed our strategy in response to customer’s needs and continue to reassess our plans to ensure we are placing our customers at the centre of everything we do.

How are you supporting businesses during this time and how have you responded to the changes in the Central Bank rate?
We have consistently re-priced our prime lending rate in response to every CBR movement by the Central Bank over the past 10 years and at present, Stanbic has one of the lowest prime lending rates of all active retail financial institutions in the country.
We lowered our base lending rates in line with the CBR cut in April 2020 during the pandemic. The Central Bank has further revised CBR in June 2020 and effective August 1, 2020, we are reducing our prime lending rate to 16.0 per cent. Our aim is to ensure our customers can benefit from more affordable lending rates as interest rates in the market are reviewed.

How many loans have been restructured?
The most recent reports from BoU indicate that at an industry level, approximately 14 per cent, Shs2.02 trillion, of the total Banking loan portfolio of Shs14.7 trillion (April 20) has been restructured. Within Stanbic Bank, more than 1,300 loans have been restructured and majority are within the SME sector.

What is the bank doing to ensure customers still have access to services and visit the branches following the directives given by the government?
We continued our digitisation drive by providing clients with alternative digital channels such as online banking and mobile banking for opening accounts, transacting, accessing financing and reaching the Bank. We have ensured that these channels remain largely stable despite the increased volumes by boosting the monitoring processes.
We have also encouraged clients to use the digital channels for loan applications and 26 per cent of all the loan applications by individuals in April 2020 were digital and 28 per cent of the accounts opened were also through digital channels. In addition, we ensure majority of our branches also remained open as we maintained government directives to keep our customers and employees safe.

The most impacted sector in the country was the SME sector. How have you reached out to them and what measures have been taken?
Stanbic has a portfolio of more than 40,000 SME clients and a key step we took during the pandemic was to offer relief programmes. We encouraged all our SME customers whose incomes have been impacted as a result of Covid-19 to apply for a loan repayment holiday based on their unique circumstances. Over 60 per cent of the loans restructured in the Stanbic’s portfolio have been SMEs.
We have encouraged businesses to sign-up on to our digital platforms specific for SMEs (Business Online & Enterprise Online) where we also applied digital waivers on some of the transactions. Other alternate platforms we provided include the cash deposit machines and for larger clients the option of enrolling the services of cash in transit.