Mr John Bonello, Chairman
Mr Simon Vaughan Johnson, CEO Distinguished guests,
May I start by thanking you for inviting me to be with you on this very important occasion for HSBC and for asking me to address you in this impressive setting.
As the CEO has just said, after what we have been through because of the pandemic, we are presently going through a renewed sense of hope. New beginnings, such as this one, gives us a strong sense of motivation.
This has been a year like no other, and I note with pleasure that the severe difficulties and complications brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic did not dampen your determination at HSBC to proceed with this ambitious project.
The work carried out on these premises is a result of a clear vision and months of detailed planning. The ultimate aim of this process, as Mr Vaughan Johnson has just explained, was to provide improved and increased flexibility for your clients. A very timely approach – especially when as we have all seen this past year, flexibility is a must and not an option.
Apart from the evident attractiveness of these premises, I also very much welcome the building’s energy-saving and energy-efficient characteristics. This should be the present and ‘future’ objectives of every corporation or commercial entity.
While I am certainly no expert in this field, it is quite straight forward to surmise that for Banks to thrive nowadays, in an environment of stiff competition, it is not only interest rates, investments, and compliance regulations, that matter.
Banks also need to provide a positive customer experience while maintaining a profitable level of operational efficiency.
This broad vision, and a number of other positive factors that resulted in today’s occasion, are a very good step in the right direction.
I mentioned earlier that this year was a very particular one, which challenged and ‘stress tested’ every imaginable aspect of our daily patterns and routines.
This no doubt applies also to the way people in Malta carried out their banking transactions.
First of all, I welcome the strict adherence by HSBC Malta to directives issued by the Health authorities. This of course meant that standard operational procedures had to be drastically revisited – no doubt also at a considerable cost and possibly also some discomfort for your clients.
However, these initiatives were taken to keep your clients and employees away from harm’s way.
I will only mention a few here – increased online services aimed at reducing the need for branch visits, socially distanced-queues, switching to online meetings with commercial clients, and the upgrading of the digital signing systems, among others.
Allow me to open a small parenthesis here.
While we all laud the effectiveness of online facilities, let us also make sure we leave no one behind by taking it for granted that everyone out there is tech-savvy, familiar to the use of modern technology, or even that everybody has the means and equipment to carry out online transactions.
During the past months, attention to the well-being of your employees was also of maximum importance, not only in safeguarding their health, through alternative working methods, like remote working, but also by providing the family support and the emotional support services that helped employees look after their physical and mental health.
I know that an HSBC Family Support Team was launched to assist employees and colleagues to gain access to essential goods and medicines if they were housebound on quarantine. Mental health was also given its due attention, and staff were provided with the facility of an online Emotional Support Service, in
close collaboration with the Richmond Foundation. This is all to be acknowledged and praised.
Besides, HSBC Malta also looked beyond its own confines and responsibilities and gathered its efforts to address the needs of those among us, who were most hit by the effects of the Pandemic.
Food collection, initiatives aimed for children, and targeted donations to Caritas, Foodbank Lifeline Foundation, Richmond Foundation and Malta Trust Foundation, as well as financial assistance to the Malta Red Cross, all left their mark in somehow alleviating the burden in different sectors of our population. On behalf of these beneficiaries, thank you for your corporate social responsibility.
This brings me to my final point this morning.
It is one of appreciation to HSBC Malta for the consistent support it has always given to the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation. Once again, on behalf of the hundreds of beneficiaries and their families, I thank you for the support you have been generously providing along the years.
I conclude by congratulating all of you on achieving today’s landmark and wish you every success in achieving your targets in your commercial activities as well as in providing the best of services to your clients.