Banks in Qatar are acting as key enablers for the successful restart of the local economy, supported by the Governments’ stimulus programme and QCB’s initiatives, says QIB chief executive officer Bassel Gamal.
“The immediate task is to support businesses and individuals in this time of financial uncertainty. In future, it will be essential to ensure that companies and individuals will continue to have access to credit,” Gamal said in an interview with Gulf Times on Monday.
The QR75bn economic stimulus package announced by the Government to support the companies operating in Qatar as well as to provide additional liquidity to banks, is having a “significant positive impact” in these difficult times, he said.
The stimulus package is worth approximately 10% of the country’s GDP.
The necessary preventative measures put in place to protect the public health and stop the spread of the virus are naturally having a negative impact on businesses, making it difficult for some of them to meet critical short-term payments and commitments.
Smaller enterprises and companies operating in the retail sector, travel, hospitality, tourism, trade and sports are the ones that are affected the most and thus in need of immediate support to overcome those temporary challenges.
“QIB’s first proactive response to the economic implications of the crisis — especially to many of our smaller business customers — was to immediately postpone financial instalments and due documentary credits for six months with a waiver of profits on due instalments for three months.
“This measure, in collaboration with the Qatar Central Bank, has been expanded to support all companies operating in the most affected sectors of the economy. We are currently accepting applications for the Government’s Covid-19 National Response Guarantees Programme, administrated by the Qatar Development Bank, helping private companies to address pressing payments, namely staff payrolls and rents. “We are also extending our support to employees (individuals) impacted by the current market conditions, providing them the opportunity to postpone their financing installments for the next three months by deferring them to the end of their existing finance tenor,” Gamal said.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis and its extent is still evolving. In a crisis of such magnitude, it is essential to put the safety of people — employees, customers and the whole community — as the absolute priority.
On measures taken by QIB to protect employees and customers during the crisis, Gamal said, “From the very early days of the outbreak, we have collaborated with the Ministry of Public Health and the Hamad Medical Corporation to raise awareness on how individuals can protect themselves and act responsibly for the benefit of their communities.
“We have made heavy use of our own channels to promote key awareness messages to our entire customer base across the country, including a campaign urging the use of our mobile and online platforms to fulfil daily banking needs remotely.
“For our employees’ safety, we have maximised the number of staff working from home while remaining operational for all customer transactions and requests. In a matter of days, we had to procure, set up and distribute a large number of laptops and desktops and establish secure remote connections to the bank’s systems, allowing our staff to work from home.”
Gamal said, “Over the last few years, we have continuously invested in upgrading our digital channels and call centre capabilities to ensure customers can perform transactions without the need to visit a branch. This has allowed us to significantly decrease the number of our operating branches during this period and migrate almost all transactions and applications for services to our digital channels. Only a small number of our branches are still operating to serve urgent, exceptional requests while we are allowing a limited number of customers to be in the branch at any given point in time and all customers have to adhere to the social distancing rules.
“Furthermore, we have introduced temperature controls at all entry points to the Bank and as of last week, in accordance with the government directives, only customers with a green ‘Good Health’ status in the Etheraz app and a face mask are allowed to enter any QIB branch. From the very beginning, we made it mandatory to use masks and gloves for our front office staff and we are frequently sanitising and deep-cleaning all bank premises, including operating branches and ATMs.
“I believe our response so far has been rapid and effective. Within the framework of our business continuity plans, we have acted in a timely and disciplined manner to the unfolding events with our key priority being the safety of our employees, customers and the wider community while ensuring continuity of our operations.
“We have also finalised our detailed operational plans for the future. We are making sure that as a larger number of our employees will be returning to their offices, in alignment with the phased government approach, we will keep on protecting employees and customers with revised health and safety procedures and policies, ensuring social distancing and the proper use of personal protective equipment at all bank premises at all times.”
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