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A year of work at the time of COVID

A year of work at the time of COVID
13 May 21
Fabio Landi

On December 31, 2019, China announced a cluster of viral origin atypical pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province. A little less than two months later, reports followed of outbreaks in northern Italy, from which the first wave of what the World Health Organisation declares to be a pandemic spread out. To counter it, Sunday, March 8, 2020, Italy decreed a national lockdown.

This rapid sequence of events has, literally, changed our history, putting us in front of a dramatic and unexpected emergency, deeply upsetting consolidated habits and hugely accelerating transformations that were already partly in place. Now, a year later, our Non-Financial Statement describes those convulsive phases, focusing on everything done to help to deal with the emergency, thus ensuring the overall operational continuity of banking and financial services to our customers, protecting people's health.

The first reaction to the emergency, in the face of the difficulty in which the structures and health staff in the areas most affected by the sudden spread of the virus found themselves, was the participation in solidarity and support initiatives. Thanks to these initiatives, the companies and employees of the Sella group donated a total of 484 thousand euros to organizations and health facilities in various Italian regions. 

Smart working
One of the timely measures adopted to protect the health of employees and customers also thanks to important investments in technology in recent years, was the use of smart working and remote relationships, in all cases implemented, "from evening to morning". Smart working involved over 3,500 people simultaneously. The total remote working days during the year went from 17,000 to 460,000. The new ways of working also involved a training campaign and a comprehensive program to equip employees with laptops, screens, keyboards, ergonomic chairs and other tools to improve personal workstations outside the office.

Security of offices and branches
During the emergency and the lockdowns, the banking and financial services never failed. The branches have always remained open, receiving customers by appointment and in compliance with safety rules. In all cases for which smart working was not applicable, operational contact points with customers and offices were provided with all the necessary equipment to operate safely. This involved the purchase and distribution of more than 3200 Plexiglas panels, more than 23 thousand litres of disinfectant and more than 200 thousand masks.

Remote relationships
Through its network of participations and interactions with startups and fintech companies, through the innovation platform Sellalab and the Fintech District of Milan, new solutions have been developed to foster remote interactions with customers. These involved: the web collaboration platform for branches and private bankers (through the Bandyer scale-up), solutions to spread e-commerce among shops affected by the restrictions (through the startup Vidra), fostering contactless payments (through Links and Qr Code) and procedures to speed up the requests to join the moratoria and the disbursement of loans provided for by the Liquidity Decree (through the partnership with Credimi, in which Banca Sella holds a stake). All this in addition to the setting up of ceilings to finance on favourable terms the purchase by companies and families of digital devices useful for smart working and distance learning. 

Serological tests and vaccines
All workers and employees of the Sella Group had the opportunity to undergo the serological test, free of charge and voluntarily, that in the acute phase of the emergency made it possible to detect many asymptomatic cases thus avoiding the spreading of the infection among colleagues and their family members. As soon as available, employees were also allowed to undergo the flu vaccine. Health insurance coverage was also extended to cover Covid-19 risk. Today, as a plus, the Group has completed the necessary protocols to vaccinate its employees and made available its spaces in Biella to set up a vaccine hub.

The next steps
The pandemic and everything made to deal with the emergency is also teaching us important lessons. Many things will never go back to the way they were before. One of them is certainly, about workspaces. For example: together with Studio Cra - Carlo Ratti Associati, the Group is working on a project to rethink its offices, creating working environments tailored to fit with the new context, characterized by digital transformation and open innovation, thus responding to the post-pandemic challenges of COVID-19. The pilot project of this partnership is in Turin. A recently purchased building will become a new hub, with spaces dedicated to banking, financial services, Fintech and innovation. The activities for which the Group is standing out.

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