People & Money

Standard Bank Gets Global Award for SME Support Amid Covid

Standard Bank has been recognised among the top banks globally in its efforts to provide relief to local small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The South African financial services provider was the sole nominee from the country in the “SME Bank of the Year” category at the inaugural Efma-Mastercard SME Banking Awards for 2020. 

The bank received a Silver award in the category, which recognises top institutions that provided crucial support to SME clients hard hit by the pandemic. Other global financial service providers that were nominated include Swedbank, Allianz Bank, and Barclays.

“It is both an honour and a privilege to be recognised on an international stage for the relief efforts and key initiatives that we, as Standard Bank South Africa, implemented to help businesses cope financially and to continue to operate under the ‘new normal’,”  said Simone Cooper, the bank’s Head of Business Clients in South Africa.

Standard Bank was reportedly the first bank in the country 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.

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Cooper said the bank had provided a number of relief measures apart from the 200 billion rand that was disbursed by banks and made available to all SMEs.

These 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 microenterprise development, waivers on merchandise payment device payments and commissions, and Google advertising subscription payment solutions.

The bank has 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 has continued to provide clients in need with assistance, on a case-by-case basis, Cooper said. 

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An SME Summit organised by the bank in partnership with leading Nigeria newspaper, Business Day, is scheduled to hold next month. “The aim is to ensure that its SME clients survive this difficult period and continue to contribute to the growth and recovery of the economy,” Cooper added.

Said to be Africa’s biggest lender by assets, South Africa’s Standard Bank was largely owned by Standard Chartered of the United Kingdom until 1987, when the latter, after gradually reducing its stake, sold its remaining 39% ownership to South African investors.

The bank has since expanded its footprint in Africa. In 1992, it acquired the operations of ANZ Grindlays Bank in eight African countries. Most of the newly acquired banks were renamed Stanbic Bank, to avoid confusion with the former parent Standard Chartered. Several more banks in Africa were acquired during the 1990s and adopted the Stanbic name.

The now Stanbic IBTC Holdings in Nigeria was formed in August 2007 after Standard Bank Group acquired a controlling interest in IBTC Chartered Bank, founded by the merger of the International Banking & Trust Company (IBTC) Plc and Chartered Bank Plc.

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