Standard Chartered Bank proves resolution, determination and innovation are key to sustain through the health crisis.
In 1948, Standard Chartered Bank opened its first branch in Chittagong. Following the acquisition of Grindlays Bank in 2000, the bank acquired a legacy that dates back to 1905. As the longest established of all financial institutions in the country, operating for over 115 years , they have earned the distinction of being an innovator in the market with many firsts, from becoming the first international bank to extend credit lines to independent Bangladesh; opening the first external letter of credit (LC) in Bangladesh in 1972; introducing the first ATM; launching the first debit card, credit card, international debit cards and the first Shariah-compliant Credit Card; the first 24-hour contact center; the first state-of-the-art Online Banking Platform, and the first cross border acquisition finance. As the country continues to reel from the setbacks of the pandemic, Standard Chartered Bangladesh has poised itself as a pillar of innovation and reliability as it continues to unveil a series of firsts for their customers, clients, communities and the country.
A BEACON OF HOPE
The COVID-19 challenge is both a marathon and a sprint – Standard Chartered is focused on enabling long-term economic recovery while also addressing the immediate need to save and sustain lives.
To meet the immediate, short-term challenges, Standard Chartered is working with development sector partners to deliver aid and essentials to the communities hit hard by the pandemic and supporting frontline health services. They are also helping businesses weather the storm. Even before the regulatory payment holiday was announced, Standard Chartered announced a broad range of support measures for its retail customers and businesses, including loan repayment holidays, fee waivers or cancellations and loan extension facilities. In March 2020, the Group initiated a US$1 billion global financing program for companies that provide goods and services to help the fight against COVID-19. Specific measures in Bangladesh include:
Small & Medium Enterprise/Business Banking Clients: Three-month payment holiday for business-owners, Extension of Trade Facilities of up to 60 days for Business Banking Working Capital clients, Temporary overdraft or incremental short-term liquidity facility, Limits Top Up for Loan against Property Clients
Corporate clients: Payment holidays for 30 days. Additional need-based payment flexibilities were offered to the bank’s corporate clients
Waiver of penal interest and late payment charges for the eligible clients
Waiver of Credit Card late payment fee
Thought leadership: SME Credit Guarantee Scheme proposed to government
In order to provide sustainable support to the SME sector, the bank actively advocated the introduction of a Credit Guarantee Scheme for the central bank. The scheme, which has now been introduced, will help the entire banking sector to provide greater support to SME sector, which represents almost two-thirds of our GDP.
CARING FOR CUSTOMERS AND COMMUNITY
The bank is currently focusing its community support measures in four key areas: immediate assistance in the form of life-sustaining food and hygiene support, supporting life-saving medical services, supporting the healthcare workers fighting on the frontlines and supporting longer-term recovery through education and reskilling initiatives.
Standard Chartered Bangladesh has contributed BDT Tk 11.1 crore (USD 1.3 million) to UNICEF programmes that supported remote education and child protection measures, including alternative care arrangements and family tracing services for children separated from their families due to COVID-19. The bank contributed Tk 2.5 crore (USD 300,000) to the Red Cross for the provision of urgent medical support. Red Cross supports activities such as the provision of primary and secondary health care, communication of protection measures, provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff and volunteers, and the distribution of food and care packages for those impacted by COVID-19.
They worked with BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, to deliver support packages to 25,000 people from 5000 low-income families, residing in areas locked down to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The packages, containing staples and non-perishable food items and hygiene products, were delivered to the doorsteps of the impacted households.
In partnership with Sajida Foundation, the bank has supported a total of 260 severely-affected COVID-19 patients for two weeks or more for each patient at Narayanganj, which is a COVID-19 epicenter. 300 more critically-ill COVID-19 patients have been supported over three months at a 100-bed treatment facility setup in Chittagong by Bidyanondo Foundation.
The bank also supported an assistance programme targeting semi-urban and rural communities through partnership with Kumidini Welfare Trust. The scheme delivered essential items to 9000 distressed families in Mirzapur, Tangail, supporting 45,000 individuals with 1,350,000 meals. There was another partnership with Bidyanondo Foundation through which 50,000 individuals from 10,000 distressed families were supported with 2,100,000 meals and essential supplies for two weeks.
The bank has partnered with Obhizatrik Foundation to distribute fresh food packages consisting of organic fruits and vegetables to serve the immediate needs of distressed communities in Dhaka and Chittagong. The produce is sourced directly from 200 rural smallholder firms, sustaining employment for around 2000 workers.
Depressed economic activity as a result of the pandemic continues to put distressed communities in a twin jeopardy, where they have to face the threat of a pandemic while their livelihoods remain uncertain. Informal and casually employed workers are particularly vulnerable. Through this partnership, the bank hopes to build a sustainable linkage between vulnerable individuals with diminished purchasing power and smallholder farmers facing a dearth of demand for their produce.
As the fight against COVID-19 draws out, Standard Chartered Bangladesh is continuing to leverage the power of partnerships to help communities rise above this global humanitarian crisis. Standard Chartered Bank has also partnered with BRAC and Jaago Foundation, to enable the bank’s credit card holders to donate directly through their respective websites. Through this partnership, Standard Chartered Bangladesh will add 5% donation, on top of the donation from the bank’s clients (up to BDT 1000 per transaction).
LEADING THE WAY FORWARD
After the pandemic is over, the world, as well as the banking industry, will likely be different. Banks have to be nimble, accelerate digitalization and bring in innovations so that clients can avail services on their own. More than half of Standard Chartered Bangladesh’s retail customers are already transacting online. The percentage is even higher in the case of corporate banking segment. The pandemic has induced a change in behaviour among all categories of end-users, be it individuals and corporates, in terms of how digital channels are viewed. While greater use of online payments and online services came as a necessity during the lockdown period, these changes in behaviour will likely not reverse.
INNOVATING WITH CHANGING TIMES
Enabling key pillars of Bangladesh’s economy – exports and remittance – with pioneering blockchain solutions
No two sectors have contributed more to the inspirational growth story of Bangladesh as have RMG exports and remittance. As both these sectors grapple with the realities of the new normal, harnessing the power of digital technologies to aid their continued growth has never been more vital.
- Standard Chartered Bangladesh successfully executed the country’s first trade blockchain transaction by issuing a Letter of Credit (LC) for Viyellatex Ltd over the Contour blockchain network. The solutions will help make LC transactions paperless, real-time, low-cost, faster and error-free. The entire transaction was completed digitally through Contour’s network.
- In partnership with bKash and Valyou, Malaysia’s leading digital remittance provider, the bank announced the launch of the first blockchain-based cross-border remittance service in Bangladesh, facilitating instant transfers from Malaysia. The service is powered by innovative blockchain technology from Ant Group Co., Ltd. (“Ant Group”). Through this service, the Bangladeshi diaspora in Malaysia can send wage remittance via Valyou to a beneficiary in Bangladesh who is a bKash wallet user. The service was developed based on collaboration among Standard Chartered, Ant Group, bKash and Valyou to cater to the Bangladeshi diaspora based in Malaysia. The service will streamline the remittance process, radically improving the speed of delivery, improving information security and enhancing transparency of the process.
Supporting the nation’s journey towards a cash-less society by building a comprehensive digital ecosystem for the bank’s clients
Standard Chartered has been a partner in the progress of Bangladesh throughout its journey, and the bank’s objectives have always been intrinsically aligned with the growth priorities of the nation. As Bangladesh continues its march towards middle-income status, the country will need to transition from a cash-based society to a cashless one. Over the last year, the bank has launched a set of technological platforms that will be able to serve the needs of the cashless society of the near future. These bespoke solutions include innovative supply chain finance solutions, expanding tailormade digital solutions for the bank’s corporate and institutional clients, and strengthening its digital retail offerings.
- Standard Chartered Bangladesh has gone live with the first API Banking (Application Programming Interface) client. Through API Banking the bank’s clients’ digital platform will be able to interact directly with the bank’s systems, without the need for additional investments. Customers will now have powerful set of banking tools at their beck and call, ready to deliver at a moment’s notice.
- They onboarded their first S2B Pay client, a complete digital collections solution. S2B Pay is an agile one-stop payment platform enabling customers to complete their collections through various online and digital channels including webstores, mobile apps, QR codes and email links. Clients will no longer require multiple technical connections, open multiple accounts, negotiate multiple contracts or undertake due diligence on multiple partners, resulting in operational efficiencies and cost savings, in addition to the general efficiencies of a fully automated solution.
Supporting the RMG sector with innovative cross-border digital Supplier Financing (Vendor PrePay) platform
The RMG sector is a critical engine of Bangladesh’s economy, contributing employment and earning vital foreign currency for the burgeoning economy. Through the Vendor PrePay platform, the bank is helping domestic firms seamlessly integrate with the digital supply chains of global players. The Vendor Prepay Program is not only providing their suppliers with cheaper funding compared to local options available, but is also enabling clients transition to more resource-efficient import models. Integration with two major UK-based retailers with extensive supply-chain presence in Asia, involved a combination of Documentary Collections and Supplier Financing products, and their local suppliers, has already been completed.
SUPPORTING AND SUSTAINING SDGS
This is an area where banks such as Standard Chartered can contribute. At Standard Chartered, they are able to support this development agenda and draw upon their deep networks and financial expertise to support the aspirations of the SDGs and promote sustainable economic development across their markets.
The priorities of the SDGs align closely with areas where they have business expertise such as trade, infrastructure, energy and access to finance. The bank is committed to using their core business of banking to promote social and economic development in the countries where they operate. They provide products and services to individuals and companies to drive local, regional and global economic development and job creation.
From 2000-2015, Standard Chartered drew upon the priorities of the MDGs to inform their sustainability and community strategies. Similarly, they are drawing upon the priorities set out in the SDGs as they refresh their sustainability and community investment strategies. To support the global launch of the SDGs in September 2015, they were a part of the Global Goals campaign supported by the UN and led by an external organization, Project Everyone, to raise awareness of the SDGs.
Building the financial capability of the youth, micro and small entrepreneurs in the ecosystem is one of the key areas of focus in the bank’s community engagement strategy. Enabling entrepreneurs working towards SDGs also aligns to their goal of working collaboratively to achieve sustainability goals.
The bank’s community initiatives currently focus on employability, education and entrepreneurship. Over the last two decades, Standard Chartered has delivered programmes that focused on economic empowerment of marginalized communities; bridging the gender gap; improving access to health, education, financial literacy; supporting agricultural innovation; promoting sports, arts and culture as drivers of positive social transformation; raising awareness about climate change and environment.
Through these solutions, clients will enjoy:
Increased efficiency – improved process for payments and collections, contributing to greater working capital efficiency and faster release of services to customers
Seamless integration – easy connection and exchange of data using a plug and play model which reduces the need for complex integration
Improved visibility – real time notification of credits and debits in to the account
Better risk management and control – reduced manual reconciliation and data aggregation which leads to reduced error
Cost reduction – direct access to information eliminates redundant and complex ERP setups for the client
Optimised cash flows – reduce cash conversion cycles with automated transaction application and electronic invoicing
This is the story of Standard Chartered, a story that started in Bangladesh 115 years ago. This is a bank whose legacy is engrained in the very fabric of the nation, a bank we can count on to be here for good.