Covid-19 is fast developing and has the potential to lead to both a humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis. This is a most challenging time for the people of our country. The choices for our government are impossible ones.
The lockdown is critical to contain the spread of this deadly virus and to ensure that the medical system has enough capacity to address the need – It is imperative to save human lives.
At the same time, the cost of this lockdown is enormous. Nine million children are on school feeding programs who are now at home where their caregivers may not be able to appropriately feed them. Many businesses will fail, and jobs will be lost, further impoverishing the people of our country with dire consequences.
The next few weeks and months are going to be very painful. This is true globally.
We continue to make good progress on our five-point plan:
We took enormous steps to best ensure the Health and Safety of the Sasfin Community, we are now thinking about the broader society.
Firstly, we have contributed R1 million to The Solidarity Fund chaired by one of our directors Gloria Serobe, of Wiphold, launched by President Ramaphosa on 23 March 2020.
Secondly, we have been working with the incredible teachers of the Forest Town special needs school which currently feeds many of its learners each day at school, to try and ensure that these young children are still able to get food during the lock down period
As of today, about 70% of our staff are working from home. This number will increase to 95% by the time the lockdown starts. As a banking group, we are required to ensure that we remain online and certain essential staff will be working from our offices. During this period all our services are and will remain available to clients.
New and existing clients will be able to invest, borrow, save and transact online. We have digital capabilities across all our business lines which means that we will be able to service you at this time. At the same time, our relationship managers and service team are available to engage with you remotely.
I am proud to advise that I have been invited to join the Board of the Banking Association of South Africa as the independent banks’ representative, which is meeting regularly via Zoom at this time. The banking sector has strong capital, liquidity and funding buffers in place and is engaging directly with National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank as well as the auditors to see how we can continue to support the economy at this time within the regulatory framework.
Last week I held a video conference with 460 Sasfin staff from my home office using Microsoft Teams. This week we held a follow up call with 530 staff.
All of our people have been trained in engaging remotely. While it is critical that we adhere to the social distancing guidelines and the rules of the lockdown – there is no reason to be isolated. What we have seen and learned in the last few days is that there is an opportunity to connect in a very real way even though this is done through “virtual means”. We are engaging with all our stakeholders in this regard.
Our purpose of going beyond a bank to support our business and wealth clients couldn’t be more important than now. We are processing client specific requests and evaluating each case on its merits. We are also working with the various authorities to see how we can best support our clients at this most difficult time.
During the chaos of the last few days and weeks, I thought about Madiba and the 27 years of isolation he spent in jail. We can do 21 days or 27 days of isolation in the comfort of our homes or longer if needed. In reading some of his letters from prison there is no doubt that he experienced anguish and pain, but he always retained hope – “I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man” he wrote. Now is a time for action and a time for hope.
We are in this together. We will do what we can to support you and all our stakeholders.
CEO, Sasfin Holdings Limited