Open communication, transparency keys to successful COVID-19 response

Lyna Mohamad

In the corporate world, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated transformation as organisations moved to quickly respond to the crisis. At Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD), one of the main challenges was how to adapt to an unprecedented situation while maintaining operations, upholding service delivery as well as assuring the health and safety of customers and employees. This adaptation was no easy feat; however BIBD as an organisation rose to the challenge. What was once an unprecedented situation soon became a learning opportunity for all employees.

With close to 1,000 employees spread over 17 different locations, it was clear that BIBD’s readiness as an organisation would require a clear, coordinated and holistic response. A COVID Action Team (CAT) was formed, consisting of BIBD leadership and key management to provide guidance, facilitate and coordinate activities across the range of BIBD employees.

Realising that any response would only be successful with open communication, transparency and employee buy-in, frequent communications were issued to employees, conveying management updates, guidelines on protecting themselves and others, and other relevant information.

BIBD’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) was activated at an established off-site location to assure continuity of business operations. However, given the nature of COVID-19, a plan was quickly adapted for the situation and an additional BCP site was identified and operational within three days.

A work-from-home policy was developed and implemented swiftly, to provide appropriate guidance and allow the most vulnerable of employees to work from home. Where working from home was not possible, special efforts were made to maintain workspace cleanliness and practise social distancing. Even amid high demand and global shortages, over 60,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) were secured and distributed accordingly to employees in the Bank.

Policies and procedures were developed, expedited and adapted to support the needs of the evolving situation. PHOTO: BIBD

Technology became a key enabler during the crisis. With face-to-face meetings and trainings put on hold to maintain social distancing, business was still able to continue by virtue of online video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams – in fact, BIBD was able to hold a series of board meetings via video conferencing.

The bank’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2020 convened through a combination of proxy arrangement and video conferencing, the first time such a method had been used in relation to the AGM.

BIBD also launched a Go Cashless! Go Digital! campaign to encourage customers to take advantage of digital payment methods and transactions through the BIBD NEXGEN Wallet and BizNet application in order to maintain social distancing at branches.

BIBD extended a helping hand to local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by accelerating the process of digitising businesses in order to be able to reach a wider customer base. BIBD launched Community for Brunei, a virtual marketplace for local MSMEs, which provides an online ecosystem with an integrated digital payment gateway and logistics services. Throughout the crisis, vendors were on boarded free of charge, and were able to keep 100 per cent of their earnings through the site.

BIBD has taken steps to be more prepared by becoming the first bank in the country to be certified by the Brunei Red Crescent (BRC) as COVID-19 Workplace-Ready.

Policies and procedures were developed, expedited and adapted to support the needs of the evolving situation. To ensure the continuous development of employees, BIBD’s HR and Human Capital Division (HRHCD) adapted to the situation by promoting more virtual learning initiatives. Given the volume of lessons learnt, it can be said that the experience of rising to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest learning opportunity of 2020 for BIBD employees.