Standard Bank bags global award for SME Covid-19 crisis relief effort

SOUTH AFRICAStandard Bank has been recognised as among the top banks globally in its efforts to support and provide relief to its small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was the only financial services organisation in South Africa to be invited to participate as a nominee in the “SME Bank of the Year” category at the SME Banking Awards, and the bank received a Silver award.

This award category recognises top institutions that demonstrated compassion and provided crucial support to SME clients that were hard hit by the pandemic.

The head of business clients at Standard Bank South Africa, Simone Cooper, said in an interview with IOL that it was an honour to be recognised on an international stage for the relief efforts and key initiatives that the bank implemented to help businesses to continue to operate under the “new normal’.

She said Standard Bank had about 500,000 SME clients and because businesses were likely to be affected by the Covid-19 crisis for some time – with some predictions of a third wave in June – the bank was continuing to provide clients in need with assistance, on a case-by-cases basis.

She said the turnover of many of the bank’s SME clients had started recovering by December after the lockdowns last year, but the further restrictions from mid-December through January saw turnovers begin to decline again.

Standard Bank joined other international banks, such as Swedbank, Allianz Bank and Barclays, which were nominated in the SME Bank of the Year category as part of the inaugural Efma-Mastercard SME Banking Awards for 2020”

Efma and Mastercard partnered to create a global SME banking community, conducting interviews with major banks from across the globe to obtain a view on what was being done to transform SME banking and support clients during Covid-19, and to establish a set of best practices.

Efma, the largest international non-profit banking and insurance association that unites financial services industry professionals within a global network, said Standard Bank was an excellent example of this, because the arrival of the pandemic meant having to shift to new ways of working, accelerating the use of digital solutions.

Standard Bank was the first bank in South Africa to announce financial relief measures for small businesses to allow for breathing room in which to manage their financial commitments, and to allow them to honour payments to their employees.

The bank also accelerated digital solutions and highlighted existing ones that it felt were most relevant in helping businesses pivot.

Cooper said the bank had provided a number of relief measures apart from the US$13.6 billion that was disbursed by banks and made available to all SMEs.

This had included a three-month moratorium on loan repayments, loan extensions and restructurings, payment holidays, disbursing funds from the SA Future Trust initiative to assist some 22,500 employees of Standard Bank’s SME clients that were negatively affected by the crisis, further support to micro enterprise development, waivers on merchandise payment device payments and commissions, and Google advertising subscription payment solutions.

Cooper said the bank’s aim was to ensure that its SME clients survived this difficult period and continued to contribute to the growth and recovery of the economy.

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