When the COVID-19 pandemic first started shutting down businesses globally, KIPCO Group was faced with the task of keeping its employees safe while finding a way for its companies to keep providing the necessary services many of its clients have become accustomed to and require daily.
From banking services to property management and retail operations, the task at hand involved creating new solutions for a range of industries and proposing untested methods in a time-sensitive environment.
Burgan Bank, for instance, was challenged with the mission of making sure no changes effected its essential services or its duty to its clients. When it comes to property management and retail, URC and Marina World were faced with the unenviable task of welcoming back thousands of guests while adhering to responsible social distancing measures.
Since the outbreak of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Burgan Bank’s Executive Management team, under the leadership of Vice Chairman and Group CEO, Mr Masaud Hayat, swiftly reacted with the implementation of several cautionary policies and procedures. Burgan immediately formed a Crisis Response Team, led by Burgan CEO – Kuwait, Mr Raed Al Haqhaq, to ensure that the bank’s day to day operations functioned optimally and without disruption in an environment that prioritized the safety and well-being of its clients and employees.
The Crisis Response Team then handed the preparation responsibilities to five smaller teams, with the COVID-19 Response Lead Team overseeing the efforts of the Safety Protocol, Remote Enablement, Emergency Response and Stress Testing Teams in implementing the Central Bank of Kuwait and the Kuwait Banking Association’s reopening guidelines.
The majority of employees were asked to work from home and only a few branches were allowed to operate during the full lockdown period, but Burgan made sure their services remained uninterrupted by providing their employees with remote access to the bank’s systems so that they could fulfill all their clients’ needs.
Burgan’s management team used this period as an opportunity to implement aspects of the digital transformation plan and introduce several new services, including the corporate accounts platform ‘Tijarti’, customer service chatbot ‘BANKI’ and a revamped Burgan website and app with many new features, all of which assisted in limiting contact between the bank and its clients.
The retail industry was faced with its own set of obstacles. Doing everything online and not in-person was simply not an option. Welcoming outside guests is an essential part to Marina World’s daily business, but that could only be done in an environment that guaranteed everyone’s health and safety.
When dealing with public spaces, extra precautions are more than necessary, and it is with that mindset that Marina World designed their reopening guidelines. Knowing that malls could not function guests, they needed to figure out ways to welcome everyone back while minimizing their viral footprint.
For starters, Marina World and its stores would only operate at a 50% capacity, and any visitors not wearing a mask or with a body temperature exceeding 37.5°C would not be allowed to enter. Shoppers were also asked to maintain a distance of two meters between each other.
A daily sterilization plan covering all parts of the mall was designed, making sure areas with heavy foot traffic or more likely to spread infection, like toilets and restaurants, received the attention they required. Any objects brought in went through a stringent sterilization process. Restaurants could only offer take-away and were not allowed to seat guests for the initial stages of the reopening process.
The mall’s management understood they needed to make sacrifices to bring back the shopping experience Marina’s visitors have come to know and love, without it risking their health. Guests were limited to four designated entrances, where they had to go through a body temperature screening, and many of the mall’s amenities were closed off or suspended, including prayer and smoking rooms and the valet service. The emphasis was put on public health and anything that was deemed unnecessary for the time being, was taken out of the picture.
Following the full lockdown period, employees gradually came back to their offices under the government’s return to normalcy plan, and United Towers Company carried the responsibility of making sure its properties were prepared for this step, in collaboration with United Facilities Management. Returning to work involved large groups of people entering and leaving certain areas simultaneously and employees being in proximity while at their offices.
The nature and number of tenants meant that guests would inevitably be coming and going to their properties during work hours. High-rises also meant that most employees would need to use the elevator to get to their offices. These behaviors increased the chances of infection and had to be controlled with strict guidelines.
Much of the responsibility for keeping everyone safe was passed on to each property’s security team, who made sure that the guidelines were followed, including limiting the number of people in an elevator, inspecting and sterilizing all objects coming in their properties and administrating body temperature screenings at all entrances.
The plan essentially revolved around maintaining social distance and administering extremely diligent sterilization measures, which proved to be a great success in keeping office buildings operational and more importantly, safe for occupants and visitors.