Q: In what ways did your institution help people during the curfew period?
As an essential service, we limited the exposure of our team to others through work from home (WFH) initiatives.
Health and safety remained a key priority, with all necessary measures and equipment provided to staff – including transport – during the curfew.
We also leveraged our virtual platforms on learning and development – with a special focus on behavioural aspects for staff members who were confined to their homes – in addition to professional development.
Given the fact that our staff demonstrated stalwart commitment and made sacrifices during these uncertain times to ensure continuity of banking services, we made arrangements to pay their March salaries in advance.
We also paid bonuses to all non-executive staff like we have done in April in previous years.
Q: And how has the bank played a part in mitigating the impact of the crisis?
As the highest ranked private sector commercial bank in Sri Lanka – being amongst the ‘Top 1000 World Banks’ listed by the UK’s Banker Magazine – our main focus was to ensure uninterrupted banking services throughout the curfew while supporting those hardest hit by economic disruptions.
This assistance was primarily extended through debt moratoriums to over 65,000 customers totalling a value of nearly Rs. 350 billion, in addition to facilitating clients with access to over 9.5 billion rupees in working capital loans at an annual interest rate of four percent under the Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s (CBSL) Saubagya Loan Scheme.
Additionally, the bank also leveraged its internally generated Rs. 5 billion COVID SME relief fund to disburse loans to assist enterprises that were not covered by the CBSL scheme.
From the instant lockdown protocols were activated, a streamlined process was implemented to assist customers to establish mobile and e-banking services. And we operated selected branches in all regions in line with the CBSL’s regulations even during the curfew.
Another critical requirement was to support businesses adapt to the surge in demand for cashless transactions and home delivery services.
In response, HNB focussed on enabling digital payments for enterprises through solutions such as HNB MOMO (our low-cost mobile POS solution), SOLO (a QR-code based payment app) and its Internet Payment Gateway.
We also fast tracked the rollout of AppiGO, a platform that enables any business to rapidly establish end-to-end e-commerce capabilities with ease.
These initiatives enabled enterprises to continue pursuing business opportunities during the lockdown – and in some cases, even expand their business.
Q: Has your organisation participated in any community assistance endeavours?
The bank donated 64 fire extinguishers to protect the medical stores at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (IDH) and installed plastic tanks for a supplementary water distribution system.
We also improved air flow by providing insulated flexible ducts in addition to pledging support for the renovation of the auditorium at IDH. Similarly, the bank also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Teaching Hospitals in Kurunegala and Karapitiya.
Meanwhile, our staff also offered voluntary salary contributions, which were matched by the bank on a one-for-one basis. The fund currently stands at Rs. 15 million and will benefit worthy COVID-19 related causes by way of donations.