KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has said that all bank branches and workplaces will remain open from March 24, according to a circular issued by the central bank on Monday.
The branches will operate with the “bare minimum” staff to ensure banking services continue, and will be open from Monday to Friday at 10:00 am, and close at 4:00pm, until further notice.
The SBP has taken these measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is constantly evaluating the situation and implementing a number of measures to ensure the continuity of banking services during these difficult times,” the central bank said.
All ATMs will remain open, along with digital and alternate delivery channels. The SBP has asked banks to be mindful and vigilant of any increased cyber security risks in the current situation.
All call centres and Real Time Gross Settlement systems, or fund transfers between banks in real time, will remain functional and all call centers will remain functional. The trade hubs of banks in all major cities will remain operational as well, again with “bare minimum” staff.
Staff have been instructed to carry their original computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs), and their service cards, with them at all time. If that is not possible, an employment letter will suffice.
Companies that provide cash collection and delivery services can also avail these arrangements.
According to the SBP, guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, the federal government, and the provincial governments will be implemented to ensure safety and health of employees.
This circular had been part of an ongoing discussion between the SBP and the banking industry over the weekend, in how to ensure the banking sector remained functional in the midst of the pandemic.
Earlier on March 22, the Banking Policy and Regulations Department of the SBP had sent an email to bankers about how to devise a mechanism to provide essential banking services, focusing on certain critical areas.
Much of corporate Pakistan has moved to working online, where possible. Fittingly, the conversation between bank CEOs, government officials, SBP employees, and the State Bank Governor Reza Baqir, took place over the video conferring tool ‘Zoom’ earlier on Monday, where the details of the path moving forward were ironed out.
These latest steps have been taken in tandem with the SBP curtailing the need for people to physically visit bank branches. On March 18, the SBP had issued new measures to promote digital payments, by waiving all charges on fund transfers in online banking.