As countries scrambled to react to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by shutting borders, implementing curfews and lockdowns, companies grew concerned about the movement of supplies around the world, especially for urgently needed essential goods.
More than ever, trade is the key to keeping countries and the communities within them safe and secure. Yet when one part of this network is disrupted by a crisis like COVID-19, the whole ecosystem becomes vulnerable.
Our contingency plans were in place to deal with the fast-developing situation. Our immediate priority was to care for employees and their families, while ensuring operational efficiency for our customers. To do so, we rapidly expanded our existing remote working capabilities and embarked on an ambitious programme to help customers with their business continuity efforts, enrolling hundreds of clients onto our digital platform, HSBCnet. In four days we added as many customers to the system as we typically do in two months.
Providing this digital lifeline has been crucial to company supply chains. We witnessed an increase in transactions as an immediate response to COVID-19 as customers rerouted their business to HSBC, using our global reach manage the risk of unforeseen disruption to payments. Our main focus was ensuring our customers could still operate across all sectors. We witnessed a particular volume increase in the food and health care sectors and we’ve ramped up our transaction times as a result. 75% of health care transactions and 83% of food sector transactions are now processed in 24 hours.
HSBC’s approach to this crisis has been to support global trade for our clients and reduce delays to the flow of goods. In Oman, a food and household goods importer found itself in a very difficult situation after its domicile headquartered city underwent a complete lockdown just as demand for imports was soaring. We helped the customer cut through the red tape that risked delaying the distribution of food, household and medical supplies by moving them to our digital channel. Ultimately, they were on-boarded and trained within 48 hours and their first supplier payment was released within 2 hours of the delivery date.
In Egypt, one of our largest international pharmaceutical customers quickly responded to the outbreak by ramping-up its inventory, securing production capabilities for up to six months. The sudden surge in import flows required an acceleration of processes to enable the swift release goods to meet factory production needs. Our digital processing allowed that to happen. The customer now routes all of its import business through HSBC.
These are extreme market conditions. Volatility and an uncertain economic outlook has put many businesses under considerable pressure. But implementing tailored trade solutions with a banking partner with the right digital capabilities and global reach has helped ensure that the business continuity plans of our customers have been able to withstand the shock of unprecedented supply chain disruption.