Nigerian businesses need to prepare and brace themselves for a highly challenging period ahead as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts day-to-day life and commerce.
This follows the Federal and State Governments’ recent announcements of a set of bold measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria, including travel bans, school closures and limits to the size of public gatherings.
“While these actions are necessary and commendable, they are steering businesses into uncharted territory,” says the Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, Dr. Demola Sogunle. “The operating environment, already difficult following years of lacklustre growth, will become even more challenging in the weeks ahead.”
As this health and economic crisis unfold, large organisations will have to contend with the challenge of managing complex operations across multiple entities and geographies – each with its own set of measures in place to tackle the pandemic.
“There is now a pressing need for effective risk mitigation and business continuity measures, and these must include partner firms, suppliers and other stakeholders,” says Dr. Sogunle.
In numerous industries, supply chains and cash flows are being severely disrupted, particularly for those businesses involved in cross-border trade. This makes planning more crucial than ever.
With this in mind, organisations should consider the early loading and planning of payments, as well as intensive cash-flow management and liquidity planning. Those businesses that have lending facilities in place should assess whether these can cope with changed or disrupted cash flows.
Also, businesses involved in cross-border trade can consider measures that reduce the impact on cash flows. Letters of credit, for instance, have a lesser impact on cash flows than upfront deposits. And the disruption of physical trade flows might require an alignment of the associated cash flows.
Meanwhile, the health and safety of employees, clients, and other stakeholders need to be top of mind. Companies should consider separating teams and allowing employees to work remotely, where possible, although the persistence of load-shedding does complicate remote work.
As more employees work from home, connectivity will be key. To enable this, teams could be provided with larger data bundles and afforded remote and secure access to internal systems. And with employees working in new environments, communication will be crucial to ensure that staff are well-informed and reassured, as well as productive.
Comprehensive policies and protocols applicable to both staff and clients are essential. Naturally, hygiene within the workplace and externally is of paramount importance – access to hand sanitizers, for instance, could prevent the spread of the virus.
“It is extremely important that companies remain calm and keep working effectively. Stanbic IBTC recognises that it has a responsibility to do everything it can to help clients keep their businesses and their lives on track.
“As we have come to grips with this new reality that is facing us, we have all made the necessary plans in our different environments and prioritised our requirements so that we can continue to work, interact, and contribute to the society in which we live.
“We do acknowledge that our business customers are facing challenges in dealing with the disruption to their businesses. We also understand that in any business or personal financial cycle there can be challenges in meeting financial obligations. These challenges may be heightened especially in times of economic downturns and crises.
“Customers who are in financial distress should contact the bank as soon as possible. The sooner the bank is informed, the sooner both parties can find a workable solution to address or resolve issues of financial distress. It is not in Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC’s interest to see a business fail, or a home lost. It is in both parties’ interest to find a workable solution. We do urge customers to contact the bank should they experience difficulties. We do not doubt that the impact of the Corona-19 virus has been extremely disruptive,” Dr. Sogunle says.
Stanbic IBTC Relationship Managers are in contact with our customers and are there to provide all the support necessary. Our customers all have individual needs and requirements and we will provide all the assistance necessary on a case by case basis.
“We are encouraging clients to make use of digital channels when transacting and engaging with the bank, where possible, and to contact the bank if a financial strain is foreseen. By planning, working together and remaining vigilant, we can limit the strain on Nigeria’s businesses in the weeks and months ahead,” Dr. Sogunle added.