Hong Leong Bank was accorded top honours as the only Malaysian bank and one of the top six banks in Asia to win the Excellence in Leadership in Asia award for its fast and decisive response to the Covid-19 crisis at the prestigious Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2020.
The Bank was recognised for its agility, outstanding forward-thinking and commitment in extending support to its business, SME and individual customers and communities at large during the Covid-19 health and economic crisis.
In a statement, Domenic Fuda, Group Managing Director and CEO of HLB said earlier in February, well before the MCO was implemented, the Bank had initiated a Customer Financial Relief Plan, which allowed their customers to restructure and reschedule their loans and financing in anticipation of the health and economic crisis affecting businesses’ cash flow and individuals’ income.
“Our approach and commitment as a community bank, is to proactively assist our customers manage and mitigate short-term cash flow disruptions as well as social impacts through wide-reaching initiatives, delivered in a clear, simple and seamless manner,” Fuda said.
He commended his teams’ agility, decisiveness and innovativeness in coming up with solutions to help clients overcome challenges and rebuild for a stronger future.
“We are very honoured to be recognised for our efforts and this will further drive our commitment to double down our support and together with customers and the wider community, work through the recovery journey that lays ahead,” Fuda added.
Euromoney commented in its review that HLB’s customers benefitted from the Bank’s ability to look beyond the fringes of the envelope, and showed clarity of service and purpose when helping customers understand the different facilities and assistance made available by the Central Bank.
One of the key initiatives carried out by the Bank in response to the coronavirus outbreak was simplifying and digitising the application process for Bank Negara Malaysia’s (“BNM”) Special Relief Facility (“SRF”) for SMEs as a means to adapt to the movement restrictions imposed as a result of the Movement Control Order (“MCO”), as well as, to safeguard the health and safety of customers and HLB staff.
The Banks allowed for the applications to be done via email, SMS or WhatsApp with consent provided via digital signatures. With this strategic move, HLB has managed to secure a total of RM1.36 billion for over 2,200 SMEs under the SRF, providing timely and much needed support to SMEs. HLB has provided an additional RM500 million from its own funds to supplement the SRF and fill the financing demand from SMEs to shore up their finances and reboot their businesses.
Further SME relief support has been provided via BNM’s Micro Enterprise Facility, Automation & Digitalisation Facility, Agrifood Facility and PENJANA SME Financing Scheme and PENJANA Tourism Financing Facility.
Additionally, the Bank has organised the ‘SME Talk’, a monthly webinar series focusing on emerging trends and needs that would benefit the SME business community to rebuild stronger including tips to introduce digital tools to adapt their businesses.
To support communities at large, especially those in-need and underprivileged, HLB made a RM1 million donation to MERCY Malaysia through the Association of Banks Malaysia as part of a collective contribution to support critical preparedness, readiness and response to Covid-19 cases. During the holy month of Ramadan, the Bank worked with 12 welfare homes nationwide to contribute hot meals daily in collaboration with its own SME customers in addition to providing cash aid for these homes to buy essentials.
The Bank also extended support to social enterprises who faced challenges in fulfilling their social missions. HLB worked with SURI Lifestyle, a denim upcycling social enterprise with social procurement to produce Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) suits for medical frontliners at Klang Hospital by subsidising labour cost, which also helped ensured underprivileged single mothers had an income to weather the pandemic. Another social enterprise HLB worked closely with is The Asli Co., who works with Orang Asli mothers by empowering them to earn a sustainable income to overcome challenges faced as a result of the health crisis.
HLB also recently launched Payment Relief Assistance Plans that will provide additional targeted assistance to individual and SME customers who foresee some difficulties in restarting their regular payments come October 2020 after the automatic moratorium ends.