Amret was able to respond very quickly when the pandemic hit in early 2020 thanks to close cooperation between the Board and management. Board members were kept directly informed of the events during the height of the pandemic and Board and Management were able to quickly agree on some clear priorities during this time. First and foremost, the safety of our staff and clients was essential, so specific measures were implemented to restrict contact between staff and clients, raise awareness on protective measures, and where possible enable staff to work from home. With disruptions in value chains and movements and the overall slowdown of the economy, many of our clients were plunged into financial difficulties because of the crisis. Amret looked to offer them more flexible repayment conditions, with an active policy to offer grace periods to the most vulnerable clients. We also implemented cautious policies on loan disbursements and reduced growth objectives on the loan portfolio to diminish risk for our clients and for the company. Amret focused on maintaining a responsible stance in the market, concentrating on supporting its current clients and responding to their needs during the crisis.
The institution also worked on maintaining strong liquidity buffers. Amret informed its financial partners of its situation at a very early stage, before they were aware of the magnitude of the crisis, and received full support from its financial partners, lenders, and shareholders. This has put Amret in a strong financial position.
These decisions resulted in a relatively successful year for the institution, despite the difficult circumstances. Amret was able to protect its staff and clients from the crisis, offering clients additional support where necessary. Thanks to a cautious approach, credit risk remained stable and Amret continued to maintain its stance as a leading responsible player in the industry. We were also able to control our expenses without cutting investment in digitalization for the future. Although Amret’s financial performance was certainly not what would be expected in a normal year, performance remained strong thanks to judicious management of the situation, ensuring capitalization ratios and providing comfort to lenders.
We made the important decision to maintain the momentum on our strategic Amret + project which was confirmed as necessary to reinforce Amret’s position on the market in the long term. The project became even more relevant considering the importance of digitalisation during the crisis and is essential for the company’s future growth. Amret continued to invest each of the four strategic pillars of the programme client, product, people, process and technology over the year. The institution will now look to further enhance its strategic digital priorities to take it to another new level to support business growth, client centricity, efficiency, data quality and better risk management.
Amret can look back on this exceptional year as one of extraordinary achievements. The good performance of the institution during the worst economic crisis since its creation can be credited to the fact that the management, Board and shareholders are aligned and focused on the same priorities. These include providing tailored services to MSMEs and low and middle-income populations, to enable them to grow, while ensuring that Amret maintains responsible lending practices as well as promoting an inspiring model of management to guarantee staff commitment to Amret’s mission and vision and using technology to improve efficiency and the customer experience.
To conclude, I would like to thank and congratulate all staff and management for their commitment and performance during the year. I would also like to thank to my fellow board members and Advans group staff for their time invested in supporting the management during the crisis. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to shareholders for their understanding and financial support.
Looking forward to its 30th anniversary in 2021, Amret can be proud of its journey and status today as a strong and stable institution devoted to serving its clients responsibly.