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In the midst of the global novel corona virus pandemic, many of our concerned stakeholders have contacted us to inquire about the measures taken by Opportunity Bank Serbia (OBS) to limit and minimize the impact of the pandemic to OBS. Here’s an overview of the situation in the country with regard to the pandemic as well as an overview of the above-mentioned measures that OBS is implementing these days:

Key Government Measures (as of March 23)

Government of Serbia proclaimed state of emergency on March 15th and has imposed the following most important general measures since:

  • Schools, day-cares, universities are closed, events, restaurants, cafes, pubs, parks or any recreational facilities are closed. Gathering of more than 5 people are prohibited, branches of government’s institutions closed.
  • Only cargo trucks is allowed to enter Serbia from abroad, and intercity passenger traffic is completely stopped, with the exception of car traffic. Public transport in the cities has stopped as of March 23.
  • Air travel ceased, Belgrade’s Airport suspended all of its international commercial air traffic but remains open for humanitarian and cargo flights, while the Serbian airspace stays open for transit flights.
  • As of 21 Mar, a lockdown is imposed for all between 5 pm and 5 am, as well as a total lockdown for over-65-year-olds in cities and for over-70-year-olds in towns/settlements with less than 5,000 inhabitants. The military is responsible to enact the measure. Social distancing is highly recommended.

Measures of the National Bank of Serbia

  • The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) has introduced a 3-month moratorium on loan repayments for all credit clients of all banks (except for the ones who decline the offer). Banks are calculating interest on their loans but are not collecting interest or principal for at least 3 months.
  • During the state of emergency, a bank or a leasing provider will not calculate default interest on arrears and outstanding claims and it will not initiate enforcement proceedings.
  • The moratorium is prescribed for all debtors (natural persons, farmers and entrepreneurs and companies), except for the ones that opt out and it implies a delay in the repayment of liabilities that cannot be shorter than 90 days, that is, from the duration of the state of emergency introduced because of the pandemic.

Current situation in the Bank and measures taken by OBS

OBS is taking increased measures to prevent and limit potentially negative effects of the pandemic:

  • Immediately after the pandemic outbreak OBS has formed Crisis Team that meets daily and produces daily reports on measures and actions, as well as any new developments. Crisis team is coordinating all measures as well as internal and external reporting and communication
  • Crisis Team has sub teams, formed for the following areas: ALM Management sub team, sub team for implementation of NBS measures – moratorium, sub team for HR, and the newest one for Business Continuity.

HR issues, health and safety of coworkers

  • Working time for head office and branch employees until 3pm according to curfew.
  • Currently 55+ employees are working from home. From Mar 30, it will be prevailing majority.
  • All meetings are held online, travel is restricted.
  • Hygiene standards have been increased in the bank’s business premises (surfaces cleaned with alcohol, antibacterial soap provided). Kitchen in Head Office is closed.
  • Maximum number of clients in branch is 2. Everyone keeps distance 2 meters, inside and out. Masks and gloves are mandatory especially while handling money.

Communications to coworkers and clients

  • Email communication has been sent to all staff with advice what to do in case of suspecting on corona virus exposure or symptoms (14-day self-isolation, etc.)
  • All staff have been advised to take preventive measure such as social distancing, washing hands frequently, keeping distance from each other, avoiding travel and gatherings and switching to online meetings.
  • Separate email has been circulated to managers with instructions how to react in case of an employee who might have been exposed to the virus and/or is showing symptoms.
  • Information regarding what OBS undertakes with regard to the pandemic has been published on OBS web site and social media in order to ensure that clients, especially depositors, understand that the bank will remain open in order to service them.

Other measures

  • The management performed an extraordinary review of the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Plan. Extraordinary testing of BCP and new measures is underway.
  • The Bank has procured extra Laptop computers and a number of Desktop Wi-Fi connectors to enable home offices.

Unfortunately, due to the round-the-clock lock-down for all people over 65 years of age in the cities i.e. over 70 years in smaller settlements, OBS had to stop approving loans to pensioners. That is why we are considering to offer our senior clients personal assistance, as their loan officers could get their weekly supplies for them as well as run other errands (like walking the dog etc.) for those who do not have anyone to assist them in these difficult times, focusing on those in rural areas who live alone.

Stay healthy and #StayAtHome