Shee Tse Koon is Country Head of DBS Singapore
What are the key operational enhancements and additions DBS has introduced to support customers during this period?
For individuals, we have introduced three rounds of relief measures that we hope will help alleviate the challenges they may face in managing their cash flows. Customers can apply to defer their mortgage repayment for the rest of the year with no impact on individuals’ records, and no late payment interest. They can also convert their outstanding credit to a term loan of up to five years at a lower interest rate, with no penalty for early repayment. As of 18 May 2020, we approved the deferment of some 9,000 mortgage principal and interest payment applications, representing $5.7 billion in loans. Earlier relief measures include free 30-day COVID-19 relief insurance coverage in partnership with Chubb Insurance Singapore Limited – some one million customers and their family members have since signed up.
While we continue to support our large corporate customers, we are doubling down on our support for SMEs during this period. DBS offers both Government-assisted SME loans announced in this year’s Budget, namely the SME Working Capital Loan and the Temporary Bridging Loan. These provide SMEs with working capital financing options of between $1 million and $ 5 million, with longer repayment tenors of up to five years. We have availed Government-assisted loans to close to 3,000 corporate customers, with about 65 percent of these comprising micro and small SMEs. In addition, we introduced our Digital Business Loan for micro and small SMEs to access working capital of up to $200,000, fast. The Loan is collateral-free and financials-free, with funding disbursed as soon as the day after applications are approved.
Tapping on our extensive network of partners, we have also developed relief packages tailored to the needs of different SME segments. The DBS F&B Digital Relief Package helps F&B establishments tap new income streams by building their online presence in just three days, while the DBS Heartland Enterprise Relief Package, which was put together in close consultation with the Federation of Merchants’ Associations Singapore, Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore and Enterprise Singapore, helps ease the cash flow challenges of heartland businesses.
How is DBS supporting its staff during this period?
Our employees are our biggest asset and their health and wellbeing are a top priority for us. Within an hour of learning that an employee at our Singapore headquarters had been confirmed as a case of Covid-19 on February 12, we ensured that all employees on the affected floor vacated the premises to work from home. Almost immediately, our data analytics and artificial intelligence team activated a contact-tracing tool to uncover the affected employee’s recent movements, which allowed us to identify people we categorised as first/second/third-degree contacts. Close contacts were put on quarantine while others were asked to monitor their health closely.
We were also quick to deep clean and disinfect the affected office space and common areas in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines. The next week, we distributed a personal hygiene and protection Care Pack, which includes surgical masks, hand sanitisers, a thermometer and Vitamin C supplements to all of our employees. This was in addition to the medical helpline and complimentary medical teleconsultation services that were already in place. Our business continuity plans also ensure that we could enable technology access for our employees to work smoothly from their homes.
More recently, we rolled out the DBS TOGETHER movement to boost employee morale and engagement through a holistic series of programmes aimed at addressing their physical, emotional, mental and psychological well-being during this period. The four themes are focused on helping employee adopt new behaviours and ways of working, build social connections despite new work arrangements, care for their personal wellbeing and that of colleagues, and use current circumstances as a positive force to develop innovative solutions. These include initiatives like regular health and wellbeing Tele-Webinars as well as a week-long festival encouraging employees to pick up new skills while connecting with colleagues.
How else are you preparing for changes in the next few months when restrictions ease and Singapore gradually returns to our regular activities?
While we were able to adapt quickly with our digital capabilities, the world will be in a different place after the Covid-19 pandemic so we have convened a taskforce to review our strategic priorities. We will leverage technology to develop new operating models that are more efficient, effective and engaging for our customers and employees. As restrictions in Singapore ease, we will take care to consider the health, safety and well being of our employees and customers as we gradually reopen workplaces. We also continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Singapore and provide our customers and businesses with cash flow support as our economy rebuilds. At the same time, we will continue to care for vulnerable communities. We will do all this with the support of our employees, and in partnership with the respective government and social agencies.
Reflecting on lessons for businesses in Singapore, what is the one main take-away having now dealt with this unprecedented crisis?
What has resonated with me during this time is ‘Purpose’, a key value for us at DBS. As a purpose-driven organisation, we have taken care to do right by our employees and customers, and to ensure that vulnerable communities are not inadvertently left out in their hour of need. Our $10.5 million DBS Stronger Together Fund will provide about 4.5 million meals and care packs to affected individuals across our six key markets, including Singapore. We believe that financial institutions have an integral role to play in supporting real people, real lives, real economies, and to share the pain in a downturn. I am confident so long as we stay united, we can emerge stronger together from this unprecedented crisis.