As part of efforts to support operators of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to keep their businesses afloat in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Bank of Africa (BoA) is providing restructuring of loans for businesses, cross-border business support in terms of assistance with suppliers, local and international trade finance and business advisory services to all of its customers especially the SMEs.
The bank is also widening its payment platform channels to make it more convenient for its customers; both domestic and international to make payment for goods and services. This is to offer convenience, flexibility and ensure that there are limited customers who will ordinarily visit the banking halls for transactions.
The bank’s secured and reliable internet banking platform, BOAweb which is even able to perform international transfers and the reliable mobile banking application, BMobile, are available with assured convenience. It is therefore no wonder that subscriptions for the various BOA digital banking applications have increased during the pandemic and it’s a good indication of the acceptability of its usage.
The Executive Head of Corporate and Enterprise Banking at BANK OF AFRICA, Mr. William Boateng, speaking during a business webinar organized by the UKGCC in partnership with the BOA on the theme: ‘Banking in a COVID-19 Environment: Dynamics for Corporates, SMEs and individuals’ on Thursday July 9, 2020 said the emergence of the pandemic is redefining the ways of doing businesses across the globe and in all sectors of the economy.
Hence, BOA felt the need to empower the SMEs on the efficient and effective ways of doing business in this critical period. The bank offers advisory services to its SME clients on how to stay relevant in business by taking advantage of business opportunities the pandemic presents.
He explained that businesses cannot continue to engage in the old ways of doing things during this period of the pandemic and expect to make profit and to also stay in business. A lot of cost cutting measures are offered to clients to ensure they cut down of their overhead expenses.
To that end, he said BOA felt the need to support its numerous customers, especially the SMEs, to effectively carry out their operations in the new normal environment. He mentioned that, with its wide presence in 33 countries across 4 continents namely; Africa, Asia, Europe and North America the Bank is best positioned to facilitate trade business for all its customers. He emphasized that cross border trade has significantly increased during this COVID-19 period and he is urging other customers to take advantage of it.
“Without the right partner there is the tendency to make mistakes,” he said, hence, the decision by the bank to support customers carry out their businesses in the comfort of their homes. He reiterated the Banks desire to see all its customers in business and has therefore aligned the businesses to support the restructuring of matured payments.
“The Bank has restructured matured facilities and this seeks to offer some comfort and flexibility for loan repayment. Both SME and Retail customers have enjoyed this opportunity, businesses who have suffered salary cuts have had extension in the payment of their facilities”, he said.
Mr. Boateng further noted that in spite of the negativity surrounding the COVID-19, there are some positives that come along with the pandemic. It is a crucial time to build trust and strengthen relationship with customers, which will offer the customer satisfaction expected from the Bank.
“In spite of the negativity we see around the pandemic, it is bringing new opportunities and business needs and it is for banks to identify these opportunities to make sure their customers do businesses in an efficient manner,” he said.
He said the COVID-19 has been an agent for restructuring a lot of “our traditional ways of doing things. “It is redefining our business activities. If you don’t keep an open mind and think that there will be a time that everything will return as it was before, you will lose out.”
With the new normal and the platforms available, customers should now be able to instruct their bank at the comfort of their homes and offices and all the necessary payments will be done on its behalf.
He added: “the pandemic is redefining every activity., it is forcing humanity to see the other side and embracing new ways of performing tasks. “It is teaching us as businesses new ways of doing things, opening our eyes to endless opportunities that come with using new technology. It is forcing us to reexamine our operations and to relook at our consumer behavior.” He further advised businesses to embrace the new normal or risk losing out on opportunities to grow.
“Businesses that are slow in adopting to changes are not surviving this pandemic and won’t survive,” he said. He testified of a customer who has gone into the production of PPEs which is in high demand now and is making good returns. He underscored that through the banks advisory services the customer has a huge contract with the Ministry of Health.
On his part, Mr. Philemon Kwame Ankomah, Chief Information Security Officer at BANK OF AFRICA, noted that activities of cyber fraudsters are increasing because more people are now trading online. He said the hackers are taking undue advantage of the new normal to dupe people.
He further recommended constant changes to online or digital platform passwords and also taking time to assess the authenticity of email messages before opening them. “Take your time and go through the mails critically to determine whether the email is genuine or not before you open,” he said.
Regarding the information security at BOA, he said the security of customers is paramount to the bank hence, the bank has taken measures to that effect.
“Bank of Africa is a certified ISO 27001 in Information Security Management System and ISO 22301 in Business Continuity Management System. Which means we adhere to all 114 controls required by the International Organization Standards.
“We have implemented a lot of controls at the bank; system design, hardening of connections, software configuration, encryption protocols, jamming and spoofing detection and monitoring,” he noted.
The Bank is looking at organizing more webinar sessions in the coming months to provide the platform to discuss pertinent business-related issues and contribute to the development of the economy by building the competency and knowledge base of businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana.