Covid-19 outbreak: Banks in Singapore announce relief measures for SMEs, other customers

Several banks in Singapore have come out to say that they will be supporting small0 and medium-sized enterprises companies and other customers who could face the likely economic fallout of the Covid-19 virus outbreak. — TODAY pic
Several banks in Singapore have come out to say that they will be supporting small0 and medium-sized enterprises companies and other customers who could face the likely economic fallout of the Covid-19 virus outbreak. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Feb 14 — Banks here have unveiled packages to help companies and other customers with relief assistance to help tide them over the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

DBS and United Overseas Bank (UOB) said that the packages are aimed at helping small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as other customers.

A third bank, OCBC, said that it is working closely with customers, whether individuals, SMEs or large corporates, to mitigate the fallout from the outbreak and to help them through this difficult period.

Multinational bank Standard Chartered (Stanchart), which has operations in Singapore, said that individuals and small businesses here are facing unprecedented challenges in the near to long term, and it will introduce measures for clients who ask for financial assistance.

DBS yesterday said that it conducted a poll of about 100 SME clients in early February to ascertain their top financial concerns and challenges during this time.

The top concern for most companies, DBS added, was ensuring consistent cash flow to cover ongoing operating costs.

To address these concerns, DBS said that it will provide liquidity relief packages to address the SMEs’ most urgent cash-flow needs.

In particular, the bank said that it will provide a six-month principal repayment moratorium for SME property loans.

It will also offer an extension of import facilities of up to 60 days to act as immediate cash-flow support for businesses coping with disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak.

“These initiatives will be available upon application to customers with good repayment histories,” DBS said, adding that affected retail customers with good repayment histories can apply for a six-month principal repayment moratorium for mortgage loans.

In its press statement yesterday, OCBC said that it will offer targeted support measures to assist customers across its core markets affected by the outbreak — including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore.

These measures include allowing customers to restructure their loans such as home mortgages and business loans, and providing a moratorium on principal repayment for loans such as home mortgages and business loans.

Besides these, it will be extending the due date of the affected business’ trade finance bills as well as extending bridging loans in the form of more working capital financing to affected businesses.

OCBC’s group chief executive officer Samuel Tsien said: “We will not put a cap on the help that we will extend to our customers. This Covid-19 outbreak is unfortunate and unanticipated. It is our banking and social responsibility to support our customers to help them overcome this market challenge which is not of their own making.” 

He added: “We will help each of our customers as the case may justify and not on a first-come-first-serve basis. As we at OCBC put it, we must be ‘simply spot on’ on the assistance that our customers need.”

Relief measures to be introduced by Stanchart include waivers of late payment fee and late interest charges for credit cards and personal loans, as well as late fee and default fee waivers for retail mortgages.

Dwaipayan Sadhu, Stanchart’s head of retail banking, said: “We understand that this can be a stressful time for everyone and we want to help our clients alleviate some financial burden in the short term, if they need it during this period.”

On Wednesday, UOB announced that it has allocated S$3 billion to provide companies — especially SMEs — with relief assistance to address their near-term liquidity needs in the face of the likely economic fallout of the virus outbreak.

The bank’s relief measures aim to enable affected companies — which have good track records and have been servicing their repayments promptly — to have more flexibility in their cash-flow management.

In its press release, UOB said that the measures would include allowing affected businesses to rework their principal repayments and to service only their loan interest for up to one year; extending up to one year working capital financing of up to S$5 million; and offering financing liquidity against mortgage security.

UOB’s deputy chairman and CEO Wee Ee Cheong said: “In these particularly trying times, the Government, businesses and communities are doing their very best to overcome this immediate challenge. We at UOB want to play our part in our commitment to caring for our clients’ businesses.” 

He added: “For most companies, especially the SMEs, cash flow and financing are key to them sustaining their business. As their long-term banking partner, we believe our added support can help alleviate the business disruption and pressure from the ripple effect of the epidemic.”

Aside from extending help to the SMEs, UOB said that it will also assess retail customers who are affected by the “current circumstances” on a case-by-case basis.

Other measures in place

In its press release yesterday, DBS said that it is working with partners to provide Singaporeans with subsidised or complimentary services to “navigate these challenging times”. 

These include partnering with education firm 88Tuition to offer unlimited, free online supplementary lessons for primary and secondary school students from Feb 17 to April 30. This will allow students to continue to take classes while having minimal contact with others.

The bank also announced a partnership with transport company ComfortDelGro in its initiative to use DBS’ debit or credit cards for street-hail hires, which will help in contact tracing.

To show solidarity and support to healthcare workers and the broader frontline community, DBS will work with community partners to provide them with tokens of appreciation, such as care packages and food-and-beverages treats.

Shee Tse Koon, DBS Singapore country head, said: “In these difficult times, we feel it is incumbent upon us as Singapore’s largest bank to lend a helping hand to our clients and the public-at-large. We hope the liquidity measures will go some way in easing the financial pressure that some individuals and SMEs may face.”

He added: “Other initiatives are intended to help customers adjust to the little changes they may have to make in daily living. Overall, we hope that these small gestures will go a long way in encouraging the community to press on.” — TODAY

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