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FEATURE INTERVIEW WITH OLGA RYBALKINA, CEO OF FOREXTIME

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Global Banking & Finance Review interview Olga Rybalkina the CEO of ForexTime to find out more about trading with Forex Time and what new traders should consider.

Hi Olga, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Please tell us about yourself, your experience and area of expertise.

Olga Rybalkina

Olga Rybalkina

I’ve been working in the forex industry since its earliest steps, back in the 1990s. My career took off in 1998 at Alpari Russia, when it was first founded, and I have since held various positions across a number of Alpari offices across the world, prior to becoming the CEO of ForexTime, which is the position I hold today. I come from a financial background, having studied Financial Management at Kazan State University, but I have had experience in many departments throughout my career, including Back Office, Account Opening and Dealing as well as various management positions.

Can you tell us about the creation of Forex Time (FXTM)?

FXTM was founded more than two years ago by Andrey Dashin, who is renowned as an industry innovator having also been the founder of one of the world’s most successful brokers, Alpari. Forex Time was established to set a new benchmark in the forex industry by providing the most innovative and revolutionary products and services, and ensuring that clients derive the maximum from their most precious commodity, time. The company is run by an executive team made up of experts who share decades of experience in finance and, specifically, the forex sector.

Forex Time has taken a fresh and dynamic approach to forex trading and, as a result, we have seen the company go from strength to strength since our operations launched. We set out to challenge the market and set a new benchmark for excellence and we are now seeing this dream turning into reality.

One of the ways that Forex Time stands out from other brokers in the market is our diversity. We understand that each client has a different ambition and focus and they have differing levels of experience. As an international forex broker, we have identified the key demands of different types of customers and cultures and we have designed unique solutions tailored to each client’s needs, such as our unique Shariah compliant account that was the first of its kind to be certified by leading Islamic scholars. We also have a vast range of account options which means there is something for everyone; from Cent accounts to Fixed Spread and ECN Zero accounts.

FXTM offers two partner programs, Introducer and Affiliate. Can you tell us more about them and the advantages?

There are two different programs offered by Forex Time to partners: our Introducer and our Affiliate programs, both classed under FXTM Partners, our dedicated partnership platform. The primary difference between the two types of partners is that an Introducer (IB) is a person that usually cultivates a personal relationship with their clients, whereas an affiliate manages their marketing promotions online and therefore doesn’t come into direct contact with clients.

Introducers are rewardedvia rebates for referring clients to Forex Time. Each time a referred client makes a trade theIntroducer receives a commission on that trade. Affiliatesreceive a scaled commission where they can earn up to $1000 CPA.

Becoming a partner of Forex Time can be a lucrative business and the launch of FXTM Partners has made it possible not just for website owners but also for social media influencers to become part of the affiliate industry and reap rewards for their online promotions.

You currently offer four different ECN trading accounts. What advice do you offer new traders in selecting an account that will work for them?

In my experience I have learned that one size does not fit all in the forex business and this is why Forex Time offers a diverse range of trading account types. We currently offer four ECN trading accounts, each of them suited to the needs of each trader’s experience and personal style. I suggest every trader carefully studies each and every one of our accounts before making their choice, selecting an account based on their trading experience and financial ambitions.

What is consistent across all of the Forex Time ECN accountsis that traders truly benefit from instant execution and transparency. The standard Forex Time ECN account is the most popular of our portfolio as it is flexible with very low spreads starting from 0.1 as well as leverage options ranging from 1:500 to 1:25. For those just starting out in forex trading it is wise to start with a lower level of leverage and then to raise this higher as your experience and skills grow.

The ECN Zero account is ideal for those who prefer to trade without commissions, but still enjoy the flexibility and transparency of an ECN account. Meanwhile the ECN MT5 account is almost the same as the standard ECN account, but traders instead use the MT5 platform. This platform provides more in-depth market information to help traders make better informed trading decisions.

Finally, the Forex Time Islamic Amanah is a Shariah compliant trading account that is absolutely interest-free and adheres to the investment principles of Islamic Finance.

What tools does FXTM offer for ECN traders?
The tools available to ECN traders are the same as those provided to all Forex Time traders, and they include the likes of the economic calendar so traders can keep abreast of all of the important data announcements that can move the market; a forex news timeline that directly feeds live market news into the MetaTrader platform; and Trading Central, a technical analysis providerthrough which traders can carefully analyse the market and strategically plan their trades. There are also tools that help traders effectively apply risk management strategies, such as the margin calculator and currency convertor. In addition, Forex Time provides fundamental and technical analysis as well as insights into the forex market on forex news portal Forex Circles.

What distinguishes FXTM from other financial trading companies?

It is Forex Time’s fresh and transparent approach to forex trading that sets us apart from other competitors. One of the advantages of being a relatively new company managed by a team of experienced professionals is that we have carefully selected the best practices of the industry and applied it to the young character of our business. What this means for traders is that they benefit from trading services of the highest standard, and carefully tailored products that are focused on putting the trader first, which means the trader can maximise the time they spend trading.

What services do you believe experienced traders will appreciate most about trading with FXTM?
The majority of clients are pretty clear on what they want from a forex broker, and that is for the platform to be reliable, the spreads to be low and the broker to be trustworthy.  Forex Time meets and exceeds all of the industry benchmarks in these areas but where we really stand out from the crowd is that we place clients’ needs at the centre of everything we do. The company’s name was decided for an important reason – time is the greatest commodity we have in our lives and something that is priceless in its value. We recognise that our traders don’t want to lose time to inefficiency or administration so we are focused on ensuring that everything we do maximises their trading so they can spend their time doing the things that are important in their lives.

Do you have any advice for new traders?

This is one of the most regular questions I am asked and one of the easiest to answer: practice.  Just like anything new in life – from a sport, to a new language, to learning how to drive a car – the key to improving is to practice. While there are some novices who get lucky when they first start trading, the key to long term and sustainable success is understanding the market, recognising what events and factors influence the price of assets, carefully developing a trading strategy and sticking to it. It is also wise for newcomers to make a modest investment at first and to build up to more substantial levels. There is no such thing as a “risk free” investment so it’s always important for traders to protect themselves and to only trade as much as they can afford to lose.

What are the most common pitfalls that traders tend to fall into?

One of the most appealing things about trading forex is that the volatility in the market makes it exciting. During peak moments of volatility, forex can experience significantly large movements which can be taken advantage of by the savvy trader. But the key here is to have a carefully considered risk management strategy that has a balanced risk: reward ratio. One of the most common pitfalls for traders – particularly novices – is that they let their losses run for too long. There have been countless academic studies made on the psychology of investing and the power of the ego, and it seems that we don’t always follow our better judgment by cutting our losses early. Those traders who do enjoy a long and successful trading career all have strategies in place so that if a loss starts to run they close the deal and reconsider their strategy.

Note: The content in this interview comprises personal opinions and ideas and should not be taken or misunderstood as investment advice.

Disclaimer: The content in this article comprises personal opinions and ideas and should not be construed as containing personal and/or other investment advice and/or an offer of and/or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments and/or a guarantee and/or prediction of future performance. ForexTime Ltd, its affiliates, agents, directors, officers or employees do not guarantee the accuracy, validity, timeliness or completeness of any information or data made available and assume no liability as to any loss arising from any investment based on the same.

 

Risk Warning: There is a high level of risk involved with trading leveraged products such as forex and CFDs. You should not risk more than you can afford to lose, it is possible that you may lose more than your initial investment. You should not trade unless you fully understand the true extent of your exposure to the risk of loss. When trading, you must always take into consideration your level of experience. If the risks involved seem unclear to you, please seek independent financial advice.

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Q&A with Joe Steele, Head of Workplace Technology at Starling Bank

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Q&A with Joe Steele, Head of Workplace Technology at Starling Bank 1

In just under a year, many businesses had no choice but to go online and with digital transformation on the rise more than ever, we wonder what it’s like for businesses who already made this transition or were digital in the first place? Joe Steele, Head of Workplace Technology at Starling Bank offers some insight into the current banking industry and how they’ve faced challenges during this time.

What are the biggest challenges banks are facing when it comes to digitalising their services?

The real challenge is for the banks that aren’t digitalising their products, especially during COVID. We’ve seen huge growth in personal, sole trader, and business accounts during the pandemic, largely in part to our digital-first approach to banking and our ability to offer all of our products through our mobile application.

The lockdown challenged banks to provide remote working flexibility for its employee; how did it impact Starling Bank in terms of employee experience? What considerations were made?

Our tech stack has been designed around remote working from day one, meaning lockdown didn’t have any effect on us. We’ve been able to perform zero-touch laptop deployments to staff anywhere in the world with an internet connection for a few years now. We’ve on-boarded around 100 new employees since the start of the pandemic from their homes, with no IT intervention required. We’ve had many employees working remotely for many years, and staff continue to use our predominantly cloud-based corporate systems with no impact on their work day, barring a considerably shorter commute.

The biggest challenge we had to face was at the start of the pandemic, where we had around 350 desktop-based staff who didn’t have laptops that we needed to get working from home within 24 hours. We managed to procure 350 macOS devices, get them delivered the next day and automatically enrolled into Jamf (our macOS management platform) which ensured all of our security settings, apps, and other configurations were in place. This meant that everyone was ready and working without disruption the morning of the first day of lockdown.

What are the main challenges for IT teams within a financial organisation when it comes to implementing a mobile strategy and how did your team overcome those challenges?

Security, security, and more security. For a lot of banks you might add incumbent on-premises systems to that list, but we don’t have that issue as we’ve always been a cloud-first organisation. Fortunately, we have a really strong cyber security team at Starling and they work closely with my team in Workplace Technology to make sure that we’re giving our users a secure device to work on, while maintaining a great end-user experience.

Why did you decide to implement an enterprise Apple MDM solution?

It’s an absolute no-brainer. The value you get from being able to deploy macOS and iOS devices

remotely, to instantly deploy apps to all your devices, ensure they’re all encrypted, deploy Wi-Fi profiles, lock lost devices, sign in to them via our SSO provider, and set different configurations to specific subsets of users is immeasurable, and that’s only about 5% of what we’re doing with Jamf right now. It’s been invaluable throughout, and especially during the pandemic.

What benefits are you seeing from implementing a mobile device management strategy and solution? Do you see this as part of a larger digital transformation journey?

When I joined the company I was in the rare position of being able to shape the technology stack to my liking as we were relatively new and there was very little in place at the time. I brought in Jamf shortly after I joined, at which point we had 100 employees. On average, it was taking the Workplace Technology team anything up to four hours to on-board staff on to macOS devices and set up the requisite accounts. I knew we were going to scale (not this much though! Another 1000 staff in under three years!) so getting a solution that would grow with us was imperative. The digital transformation is never going to end, so it’s good to be considerably ahead of the curve at this point, and that’s where we’re looking to stay.

How are you maintaining employee engagement while staff are at home? How has technology played a role?

Joe Steele

Joe Steele

The first thing is to make sure everyone is comfortable and has everything they need to work. We’ve sent out thousands of peripherals and accessories such as monitors, back supports, trackpads, and even printers to employees’ homes. On top of that, we’ve always prided ourselves on having the best technologies available and that extends to our instant messaging and video conferencing technologies. We have a livestream Q&A with our CEO Anne Boden as well as other heads of departments three times a week, we have many new Slack channels that have appeared for things like knitting, gaming, and running during lockdown, and we’re encouraging staff to have video calls with new starters to welcome them to the company.

Do you think having a mobile device management strategy has improved employee experience and if so, how?

Being able to ship a brand-new, unopened MacBook Pro directly to a staff member’s house for them to open for the first time, really gives them the sense of ownership of the device. It’s important to us that staff feel like the laptop is their own and not heavily locked-down or they’ll resent using it. Using Jamf, we’ve found a great balance in security and end-user experience.

Many banks have been reticent to offer employees more flexible and remote working. How has technology changed that mindset for Starling Bank? What surprising benefits have you seen?

We were flexible and offered remote working before lockdown, but not to such a large scale. The mindset hasn’t really changed at all, only the numbers involved. With the plethora of video conferencing, instant messaging, screen sharing, live streaming, and collaborative working tools available to us we still feel just as connected as we did before.

In fact, I feel personally as though I see my team and other colleagues considerably more now than I did when I was in the office, and I definitely feel more productive. I think the benefit is that we now know that we can work remotely and continue to thrive as a business so it’s nice to have that option. I believe businesses have been somewhat tentative around taking this step in the past but can now see its success.

 

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An inside look at how both the global pandemic and the March and November 5th National Lockdowns are affecting mental health within the workforce

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An inside look at how both the global pandemic and the March and November 5th National Lockdowns are affecting mental health within the workforce 2

By Lianne Harrington, Director SMP Healthcare Ltd    

Part One:

Real life insights into the deteriorating mental health of three employees during the global pandemic 

Part Two:

Mental Health and the Workplace – the statistics you need to know about: from Health & Safety Executive, Office for National Statistics and MIND

Part One:

As an employer in 2020, the issue of work-related stress disorders is an extremely hot topic. With the impact of COVID-19 affecting people’s ability to work in a “normal” way or in some cases not work at all, workrelated stress issues are surely going to be more common.

With so many people working from home and losing face to face contact with their colleagues and managers, how can employers really assess whether or not an employee is struggling with the current working climate?

There are the options of Zoom/Teams/Skype video calls, WhatsApp group chats and numerous virtual meeting platforms, but do you really get a realistic picture of someone else’s mental health and well-being in the same way that working with them in your normal environment would do?

We decided to get a first-hand view of how COVID-19 has affected our staff by asking them to answer a series of 10 questions. The team at SMP Healthcare were happy to provide answers anonymously in the hope that this experiment will highlight to others how mental health and wellbeing has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

We’d encourage you to consider posing the same (or similar) questions to your staff.  You may be shocked at the answers!

QUESTION ONE

When the current COVID-19 pandemic was in its infancy at the beginning of 2020, were you worried about what this would mean for you and your family?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Actually, I was not worried at all, in fact I can remember having a conversation in the office about it and could probably even be quoted as saying “it won’t come here, I don’t know what you are worrying about. China is a long way away you know!” How wrong could I be? ”

“Yes, but I am quite an anxious person, so for me I found it quite difficult and my brain went into overdrive very early on as to how this could affect me and my family.”

“Whilst the Covid cases were contained within China I didn’t have any concerns as I really didn’t think it would spread to the UK but as soon as it did start spreading to the UK and other European countries, I started to worry.  Not only was I worried about myself as I’m high risk, I was also worried about the older members in my family both in the UK and abroad. My worry was that if any of us contracted it, we would be unlikely to survive it, due to age and/or underlying medical conditions.”

QUESTION TWO

When the government announced in March 2020 and again in November that those who could work from home should work from home, were you pleased or disappointed?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“I was really disappointed. I love getting into the office and working with colleagues in a face to face environment and have a great bunch of friends I catch the train with and have done for a number of years. The thought of working from home for even a month seemed so surreal, little did I know that that few weeks would roll into a few months. “

“Pleased. I love my job and my colleagues, but I am an introvert and so quite happy to work from home and with all this going on feel safer doing it this way.

“Yes, I was very pleased as I knew I would feel safer at home.  I wasn’t happy going to the office every day because of coming into contact with other people there, as although I was being careful, I couldn’t be sure that other staff members were also being careful.”

QUESTION THREE

Did you find it hard to work in your home environment and did you have to make any adjustments to accommodate this?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Work was not really an issue from home although I only had a really small computer workstation so after a couple of months went by, I gratefully received a freebie desk from a friend with a more comfortable chair too. The thing I found most difficult was taking time away from the computer screen. My travelling time was replaced by additional screen time and my eyes have really suffered. As soon as the opticians opened again I had to get a new prescription, it could be coincidence but I really don’t think it helped.

“No, not at all. I have a separate area where I can work away from my family and we already have a

computer at home.”

“No, I found it really easy working from home and apart from needing to use the company’s laptop, no adjustments had to be made.”

QUESTION FOUR

Was a daily call from management enough for you or did you feel that there should have been more contact?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF: 

“One of my colleagues set up a WhatsApp group and we all sent a “funny” good morning message to each other practically every day. Unless there were specific issues, I think one call was enough. We emailed on a regular basis anyway.”

“For me a daily call was fine and if I had any issues I knew I could simply call management for assistance.”

“For me, a daily call was more than sufficient.  It was good to be able to catch up on the previous day’s events and discuss anything in the pipeline.”

QUESTION FIVE

Did the fact that you were placed on furlough make you feel nervous about the long term stability of your job role?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Fortunately, I was never on the furlough scheme and therefore this wasn’t an issue for me at the time although of course, the worry for other people was still there.”

“Yes, but again I am a very anxious person and this was something totally new and like a lot of people I am sure they also thought the same as no one knows how this pandemic is going to affect their jobs.”

“Yes, absolutely.  It was a very unnerving time and not knowing what the future held jobwise was very stressful.  Added to the fact that I was concerned about contracting Covid, I felt extremely anxious and felt very unsettled.”

QUESTION SIX

When you were on furlough, did you struggle to motivate yourself to live a “new normal” life?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF: 

“Again, this didn’t apply to me, I was lucky to be working the whole way through.”

Lianne Harrington

Lianne Harrington

“A new normal life, that’s such an odd phrase, but it’s true I suppose especially for those that used to go out and socialise on a daily basis. For me, nothing much has changed, I enjoy spending time at home with my partner and little girl, but I miss seeing my family and when restrictions were in place I did find that extremely hard, but I kept telling myself, this isn’t just happening to me. We are all going through this bizarre time in life together.”

“I found it really difficult to get to grips with the “new normal” and on the rare occasions that I went out it was with trepidation. I knew that I had been following all the rules but was concerned that other people hadn’t been doing the same.  Because of my uncertainty, I felt safer being indoors.”

QUESTION SEVEN

Did you miss going to the office and meeting with colleagues on a daily basis or were you happier in your safe, home environment?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Well I guess I didn’t miss paying the travel costs but yes, 100% I think it is much better working in the office although I also believe we have a responsibility to follow the government guidelines and work from home – because we can. Yes I know being at home was the safest place to be but I would definitely rather be in the office. My personality is not suited to long days on my own in the same four walls.”

“I do miss seeing my colleagues and having that face to face interaction with them, but we are well connected working from home and keep in contact with each other on a daily basis so it doesn’t affect me massively and I feel safer and happier working from home.”

“In all honesty, I didn’t miss going to the office.  I much preferred being at home.  Not only did I feel safer in my own little hub but I felt that I worked better as I wasn’t feeling so anxious.  Even now, my home is my safe place.”

QUESTION EIGHT

How did you feel when you were removed from the furlough scheme and asked to work full time again?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Not applicable to me.”

“Relieved. I love what I do and for me personally, work is a great form of escapism, and it certainly helped take my mind off of what was happening in relation to the pandemic.”

“I felt relieved when this happened as it meant my job was safe. The uncertainty of my job was constantly worrying me.”

QUESTION NINE

What about coming back to the office, were you nervous about returning on the 10th August 2020?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“Not at all. The daily figures were really calming down and again, as soon as Boris Johnson actively encouraged people to return to the workplace then I could have jumped for joy. I could not wait to get back to the office and experience a little bit of normality. It was great to see everyone on a daily basis again.”

“I was nervous about returning to the office, although management made the necessary adjustments for us to return, it still didn’t take away my anxiety and thoughts about potentially catching the virus or even passing it onto colleagues as a potential carrier.”

“I didn’t like going back to the office at all.  I felt nervous and anxious, particularly as I use public transport for part of my journey.  To try to minimise my nervousness, particularly with my journey, I started driving to work but car parking is very costly, so I won’t be able to do this all the time.  Also being in the office where at times there could be up to 7 people there has been worrying as other people come in my public transport and could well be a carrier of the virus.  And of course, I would not be aware of who they are mixing with outside of the office.”

QUESTION TEN

Now that you are once again working from home, has your feeling changed about doing this changed in anyway?

ANSWERS FROM STAFF:

“No, I have resigned myself to the fact that this is how it has got to be even if it is another 6 months. It doesn’t affect my work or my clients and all of the insurers are still accessible. Obviously, I wish it was different but if by working from home it means we avoid a full lockdown and I can still spend time with my parents then that’s far better in my book.”

“No as I feel I am happier and more productive working from home. I find it easier to concentrate and it has definitely had a positive impact on my mental wellbeing.”

“No, my feelings are the same as before.  Home is my safe place and so working from home lessens my anxiety and makes me happier.  I am thankful that I have a job that enables me to work from home.”

The mental health effects are totally different from person to person. This feature represents just 3 people. Imagine the magnification of asking the same questions to 100 or even 1000 employees?

Everyone will be having their own stress and anxiety issues regarding the current working climate and this doesn’t take in to account the people who might be asked to go into the office even though they could work at home. Imagine what the answers would be from employees falling in this bracket!?

Part two:

Mental Health Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive published statistics in October 2019 that confirmed in 2018/19 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health. The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2018/19 was 12.8 million days!!

12.8 million days – now that is a huge number for Great Britain to cope with; I cannot help but wonder what this figure will be for the 2020/2021 period?

Within the report it shows that females had statistically significantly higher rates of work-related stress depression and anxiety compared with the average for all persons.  Would this be because women are far more likely to report or discuss mental health issues than men or is it that there are significantly higher cases in women?

*sourced from https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/

Office for National Statistics (ONS) report relating to coronavirus and depression

With the above statistics from the HSE in mind, we then look and the ONS report in June and the results are fairly staggering.

To think that this was the position in June, where are we now four months down the line and no end in sight? The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and the winter is looming fast. With the UK news filled with local lockdowns, mass redundancies and the closing of many high street stores then I can only presume that the next ONS report may even bring more frightening statistics about the mental health of the UK population as a whole.

UK mental health charity MIND www.mind.co.uk describes the coronavirus as creating a  mental health emergency and their latest report shows that new mental health problems have now developed with existing mental health issues getting worse.

  • Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).
  • One in eight adults (12.9%) developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms during the pandemic, while a further 6.2% of the population continued to experience this level of depressive symptoms; around 1 in 25 adults (3.5%) saw an improvement over this period.
  • Adults who were aged 16 to 39 years old, female, unable to afford an unexpected expense, or disabled were the most likely to experience some form of depression during the pandemic.
  • Feeling stressed or anxious was the most common way adults experiencing some form of depression felt their well-being was being affected, with 84.9% stating this.
  • Over two in five (42.2%) adults experiencing some form of depression during the pandemic said their relationships were being affected, compared with one in five (20.7%) adults with no or mild depressive symptoms.

*sourced from https://www.ons.gov.uk/

Mental Health provision in the private health insurance sector

Having worked within the private medical insurance sector for many years, I have to say that the mental health support and back up provided by the UK Insurers during the coronavirus pandemic has been impressive.

With the lack of NHS GP appointments being available during the height of the pandemic, the online and virtual resources provided by the insurers have been invaluable to many people. This applies at both a consumer and business policy level.

Very quickly the private sector reacted and gave access to resources online and remotely, unlocking valuable support to their clients for both physical and mental health conditions. Mobile phone Apps have been created and extended to try to support people through what is turning out to be an extended period of uncertainty.

I know there will be a number of people who will now want to interject and complain about the lack of access for non-urgent diagnostics and surgery for private patients during the height of the coronavirus pandemic but if I can offer reassurance that the many of the UK insurers have pledged to review any increased profits in this time period and make this right with their clients. Some offered payment breaks or payment holidays and most offered a flexible approach and reviewed clients on a case by case basis.

This was an unknown situation and unchartered waters were navigated. On the whole, I truly believe the UK health insurance providers (large and small) exceeded the expectations of clients and brokers alike.

To access support for their staff employers and business owners do not even need to go as far as full private medical insurance policies which can be costly. Lower cost options such as health cash plans and employee assistance programmes may be a far better consideration at a time where many businesses are looking at cost reductions rather than increasing employee benefit costs. The cost of an employee assistance programme really is minimal and is available to businesses both SME and Corporate.

When you start talking about health insurance as a whole, there are a myriad of options available on both a consumer and business level. Matching what you need to have in place with what you can afford may not be easy.  A specialist health insurance broker such as SMP Healthcare would be able to advise you of your best options and providing they are independent you should also have the reassurance that they do not have any bias towards any of the providers.

In conclusion I would urge businesses to take the time to ask their employees for feedback, be brave and see what effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on each individual member of their team. By asking the questions this provides employers and business owners a real insight into the struggles that their staff are facing from a mental health perspective.

You may not want the honest answers but surely this will provide you with the best overview of their situation and give you the opportunity to implement procedures and policies to help staff before it comes to crisis point. With great staff being the most valuable asset of your business, surely their welfare becomes more important than just fulfilment of a “duty of care”

 

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Rising to the Challenge of the Pandemic

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For over seven decades, Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has been the Philippines premier development financing institution, supporting inclusive growth and development in the country. As a development financial institution, DBP is ready to help address both the immediate and long-term needs of the economy. Global Banking & Finance Review spoke to DBP President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel G. Herbosa to find out what the bank is doing now to help the Philippines cope with pandemic and their plans for the future.Rising to the Challenge of the Pandemic 3

  1. What is the mandate of the Development Bank of the Philippines?

“DBP is wholly-owned by the Republic of the Philippines and is classified as a development bank. Its primary objective is to provide medium and long-term credit facilities for the growth and expansion of the agricultural, industrial, and public utility sectors. Alongside its deposit-taking activities, the Bank fulfills its mandate in part through on-lending Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds provided by international development agencies, and by providing commercial loans to corporations and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

DBP has proven effective in managing public funds and channeling those funds into productive loans to four priority sectors – infrastructure and logistics, MSMEs, social services, and the environment. The Bank is particularly strong in providing term loan facilities to finance projects that help spur economic growth and contribute to national development. The Bank builds strategic partnerships with industry and businesses, financial institutions, local government units, national government agencies, and non-government organizations to fulfill its development mandate to be a catalyst for nation-building.

With more than seven decades of committed advocacy as the country’s premier development financing institution, DBP has further sharpened its development focus to be the Philippines’ Infrastructure Bank. With this enhanced mandate, DBP more aggressively supports infrastructure development towards inclusive growth and a more balanced regional development for the country.”

  1. What does the “Best Corporate Bank Philippines 2020” award mean to DBP?

“It’s a very welcome affirmation of the standards that we have set for ourselves as development bankers, especially during this time of a global health emergency.

In terms of deposit performance during the first semester of 2020, DBP was the fastest growing bank (in growth rates and in absolute amount of increase) among its peers. This was due to our working hard in the present pandemic environment to service our clients’ deposit and loan requirements. Ninety percent of DBP branches remained open during the imposition of community quarantines to continue our service delivery to the transacting public. We did not just keep our branches open, our account officers remained engaged with their clients in servicing their banking transactions.

Through end-June, total deposits of DBP grew 37% year-on-year to reach US$13-Billion (PHP637-Billion) led by a 52% year-on-year increase in Term Deposits and a 20% growth in CASA. Deposits of our national accounts comprising of government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) and large financial institutions (FIs), serviced by our team of Relationship Officers, increased by at least US$1-Billion (PHP50-Billion) from end 2019 to July 2020 and even more creditable is the 98% year-on-year growth in our private deposits that was achieved.

We are proud of the work we have done for these GOCCs and FIs amidst the pandemic as we provided to them the full range of banking services particularly for their deposits and transactions.

Of particular significance is the work we have done for the state pension fund for private employees, the Social Security System, which the Bank has assisted towards making their financial operations more efficient, such as their cash management from the physical deposit pick-up collection from their branches nationwide to their liquidity requirements in assisting the maturity profile and rates of return on their deposits to assisting them in their disbursements that they used to do via issuing of physical checks and deposit to their Members’ accounts. We have transformed this electronically via our PESONet channel; they just send us the instructions and we electronically disburse their Pensions, Loans and other Member Benefits (e.g., maternity and other medical needs) to their Members’ bank accounts or through our Fintech partners (e.g., Paymaya) and other cash disbursement outlets. We have performed these services as well for our other Corporate clients.”

  1. What role is DBP expected to play to help the Philippines cope with, or bounce back, from the pandemic?

“DBP is poised to play a more catalytic role in the socio-economic recovery efforts for the Philippines. As a development financial institution, DBP is ready to help address both the immediate and long-term needs of the economy. We will continue to act with urgency in terms of investments focused on helping critical sectors of the economy in view of the negative impact of the pandemic on businesses, employment, and livelihood. Needless to say, it is important for DBP to provide additional financing to said sectors, be it working capital and loans to stay afloat during the pandemic.

In sustaining its development lending mandate, DBP will continue to expand and enhance its credit programs to further ease access to funds and promote an environment ripe for development intervention in hard-to-reach segments and areas.

Further stepping up to the challenge, DBP will continue to work closely with other government agencies, and the private sector, to meet the demands resulting from the pandemic. The goal is to find ways to boost the economy for a systemic impact on target sectors. This may involve reviving the capital market, keeping businesses solvent and operational, financing innovations to solve crisis-related problems, and even enabling the distribution of financial aid to the most vulnerable sectors of the economy.”

  1. What has DBP accomplished to help the Philippines meet the challenges arising from this pandemic?     

“DBP continues to support the National Government in the fight against the pandemic in the country, ensuring the availability and accessibility of financial services nationwide particularly for adversely hit industries like construction, manufacturing, health care/ hospitals, education, transport and storage, among others.

To assist these businesses, the Bank granted payment moratorium of up to six months under its Rehabilitation Support Program on Severe Events or DBP RESPONSE. The moratorium is the Bank’s response to the National Government’s call to financial institutions for temporary credit relief to the pandemic businesses as mandated by Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan I.

Under the Bank’s DBP RESPONSE Program, loan payment moratorium was extended to 726 borrower-accounts with outstanding principal balance (OPB) of US$2.80-Billion  (PHP134.94-Billion) or deferred amount of US$436.51-Million (PHP21.04-Billion) combined principal and interest. Also under the DBP RESPONSE, 19 borrowers were granted loan approval for new projects in the cumulative amount of US$86-Million (PHP4.147-Billion) while six borrowers were granted loan restructuring amounting to US$3.5-Million (PHP169.79-Million). We are also implementing a continued moratorium on the repayment of salary loans involving 52,490 government employees.

The Bank has also continued processing and approving applications for loans.  As of September 2020, we have processed loan releases for 1,025 enterprises, excluding 965 rollovers, in the amount of US$3.03-Billion, excluding US$7.24-Billion rollovers. While we have continued the processing of loan releases for supported industries and enterprises, we have continued as well as the processing of remittances and other financial transactions to ensure the continuous flow of goods in the country.

Further during the pandemic, DBP was also involved in the release of cash aid. The Bank assisted in the disbursement of cash assistance under the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Rice Farmers Financial Assistance program where PHP1.48-Billion (US$21.7-Million) subsidies were distributed by the Bank through its cash pay-out partners, M Lhuillier and PayMaya, to 297,000 farmers. The Bank also facilitated the release of social amelioration funds under the Small Business Wage Subsidy program, where PHP50-Billion (US$1.03-Billion) was distributed by the Social Security System to 3.4 million employees of MSMEs who were left unemployed during the successive community quarantines, through DBP to their bank accounts and again through its cash pay-out partners.

DBP likewise encouraged investments in the National Government’s “Progreso Bonds” or the Retail Treasury Bonds Tranche 24, a five-year government-issued debt security to augment government funds for projects related to pandemic response.”

  1. Last year, you issued DBP ASEAN Sustainability Bonds. Can you tell us a little more about this issuance?

“As a development financing institution, DBP has always been at the forefront of sustainable development and environmental protection.  The DBP Sustainability bonds issuance last year affirmed our commitment to continue supporting initiatives that have an impact not only on communities but also on our environment.

We successfully raised PHP18.125-Billion or roughly US$362.5-Million from that initial tranche of our programmed PHP50-Billion or US$1.0-Billion Bond Programme. The initial tranche was aimed at financing environmental and social projects eligible under our Sustainability Finance Framework. Proceeds from the bonds have been exclusively used to fund projects that contribute to economic inclusion; environmental objectives such as climate change mitigation and adaptation, natural resource conservation, and pollution control and prevention; as well as projects that directly address or mitigate a specific social issues. In particular, 83% of the proceeds were allocated to fifteen projects in sustainable and renewable energy under the Bank’s FUSED Program, while the rest was roughly split between projects for water supply and health care under DBP’s WATER and SHIELD Programs. That bond issuance did not only provide for a sound investment but also provided an opportunity for direct investing in nation building.”

  1. We understand that DBP will be undertaking its second issuance of DBP Bonds. Why are you issuing these bonds now?

“Even before the onset of the pandemic, the Bank already planned to raise additional funds from our Bond Programme to augment our funding requirements as the Bank pushes to lend more to our priority sectors. Now with the current crisis, there is an even greater call for DBP to increase our funding base to be ready to provide much needed financing to those affected by the pandemic and for recovery efforts especially for those hit by recent natural calamities. We also believe our Bonds can be considered a safe-haven for those looking to invest during these uncertain times.

The net proceeds of the second issuance of DBP Sustainability Bonds will be used and/or allocated by the Bank to finance and/or refinance DBP’s loans to customers or its own operating activities including those in Eligible Green and Social Categories as defined in DBP’s Sustainable Financing Framework: (a) Eligible Green Categories –(i) Renewable energy, (ii) Green buildings, (iii) Clean transportation, (iv) Energy efficiency, (v) Pollution prevention and control, (vi) Sustainable water management, (vii) Eco-efficient and/or circular economy adapted products, production technologies and processes and (viii) Terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity conservation; (ix) Climate change adaptation and (b) Eligible Social Categories –(i) Affordable basic infrastructure, (ii) Access to essential services, (iii) Employment generation, (iv) Affordable housing, and (v) Socioeconomic advancement and empowerment and (vi) Food Security.

Proceeds of the fund-raising activity will further enable us to support and spearhead projects in line with the sustainability development goals and allow us to reach a wider network of stakeholders especially in the countryside. It will also take DBP “one step closer” to its target of becoming a PHP1-Trillion (US$20.8-Billion) bank by 2022.”

  1. What can we look forward to from DBP in the coming years?

“Looking ahead, DBP‘s post-pandemic interventions will be carried out through programs supportive of recovery and expansion as well as new investments to stimulate economic activity. These programs will continue to channel growth in the four priority thrusts of DBP, which are infrastructure and logistics, environment, social services, and micro, small and medium enterprises.

The policy and regulatory framework for the Philippines’ recovery is in place. A national recovery and rehabilitation strategy has already been signed into law by the National Government to address and provide for the funding needs of distressed economic sectors.

This pandemic has given us at DBP a new perspective on how our development work can still be done, and done well, despite the challenges. We stand always ready with our programs of assistance and initiatives to support the requirements of the different sectors — in consonance with the thrusts of the National Government — from boosting their readiness to pursue growth and competitiveness opportunities to reinforcing their resilience as they embark to restart, rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”

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