Press Releases and Announcements
Alternatif Bank Launches Best Practice In “Accessible Banking”
Alternatif Bank Chief Executive Officer Kaan Gür: “We are working on a ‘rights-based’ service model whereby everyone can equally and easily access banking services. We aim to offer easily accessible services to people with disabilities, elderly people, pregnant women or any other groups subjected to limitations due to various reasons, including accidents. This topic will be a part of our corporate culture. We wholeheartedly believe that in five years’ time, Alternatif Bank will have set an example in accessible banking”
“In addition to our diverse accessibility projects, we have also started designing products for people with disabilities. Our first step is a loan package.”
Research studies show that there are millions of disabled individuals in Turkey facing challenges in reaching various inherent necessities of working life and daily living. Starting off with the fact that banking services are one critical challenge among these, Alternatif Bank has been focusing on improving the awareness and competencies of its employees, as well as the accessibility of its service channels since last year. The Bank is taking an important step in its corporate culture with ‘Accessible Banking’ practices, and has recently introduced its projects that aim to render banking services easily accessible by everyone at an online press meeting. The meeting took place on 16 September, Wednesday with the participation of Alternatif Bank CEO Kaan Gür, Alternatif Bank Human Resources Executive Vice President Ebru Taşcı Firuzbay, Alternatif Bank Information Technologies, Digital Banking and Operations Executive Vice President Esra Beyzadeoğlu, and Accessible Banking Advisory Committee Members Süleyman Akbulut, Hakan Özgül, Duygu Kayaman, Prof. Kenan Çayır ve Assoc. Prof. Itır Erhart.
Regarding the Bank’s vision and projects in ‘Accessible Banking’, Alternatif Bank CEO Kaan Gür commented: “As Alternatif Bank, we have been going through a significant transformation over the past few years. Step by step, we are evolving Alternatif Bank towards a new culture. Our point of focus is people and to offer them maximum services. We are now embracing “Accessible Banking” alongside our insightful and advisory banking objectives. What we mean by Accessible Banking is that everyone can easily access all of our services. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantaged groups in Turkey that are being neglected. Elderly people, pregnant women and of course, disabled people. These individuals are facing challenges in reaching many inherent necessities in both their professional and daily lives, which they have a right to. These rights also apply to banking services. At this point, we define our business culture as “rights-based banking”, an approach through which everyone can equally and easily access banking services. We are improving the accessibility of our physical and digital service channels. We are constantly elevating the awareness and competencies of our employees on this matter. We are developing our projects under the guidance of expert academics and non-governmental organisation representatives.
In order to determine our next steps, we conducted an online survey designed to identify the challenges encountered by disabled individuals both in their social lives and when benefiting from banking services. Our analysis of roughly 2 million contents on social media and forums in the past year showed that people with disabilities predominantly face challenges in areas such as retirement, education -exams, employment, working life, transportation and accessibility. Out of the posts related to banking services, 17% were about physical access issues, while the rest were related to benefiting from banking products and services, including 62% on loans. In the light of these data, we focused on developing products and launched a loan package for disabled individuals up to TRY 50k at 1.10% interest rate with a maximum maturity of 24 months, in addition to our accessibility projects. We hope that the steps we have taken make an impact and resonate in the banking industry, institutions, municipalities, and our country sets an example for disabled living. We have established a five-year ‘Accessible Banking’ plan. What we have done until now is just the beginning. Our objective is to make Alternatif Bank an example in Accessible Banking and share our know-how with everyone.”
Sharing the Bank’s human resources projects on accessibility, Alternatif Bank Human Resources Executive Vice President Ebru Taşcı Firuzbay said, “We started our efforts to become an accessible bank from inside the organisation, with our employees. While rendering our service channels accessible, it is also crucially important to raise the awareness of our employees and improve their knowledge. We believe that even one person’s heightened awareness and knowledge will create a domino effect and make an impact on larger scale. We were able to have a first-hand experience of this during our training. Under the guidance of our advisory committee, we provided our employees with language and perspective unity trainings on the definitions of impairment and disability, recognising disability groups and best communication methods. We informed our employees about different disability groups in in-class trainings, meetings and workshops, and organised meetings to develop comprehensive practices. In order to ensure the continuity of this corporate awareness, we added specific modules to our orientation program. We have on our short-term agenda an action plan to develop and implement new training content based on our rights-based service approach for both our current and future employees. In terms of disability employment, our Bank meets the quota established by legislative regulations. Actually, our objective is to make our disability employment numbers exceed legal requirements, and include disabled students in our internship processes. We also aim to employ an “Accessible Communication Specialist” who can use sign language to support all of our service channels from our Customer Communication Centre.“
Alternatif Bank Information Technologies, Digital Banking and Operations Executive Vice President Esra Beyzadeoğlu explained the Bank’s on-going projects in the Bank’s physical and digital service channels: “Along with our brand transformation, our Bank already started making arrangements to improve customer experience at our branches, our point of contact with our customers. We renovated more than 80% of our branches in the past three years. We started implementing additional arrangements based on the guidelines we have prepared in consideration of our advisory committee’s recommendations for the evaluation of accessibility standards at our branches. To this end, we started implementing a schedule. Today, we have come a long way in our accessibility arrangements at all our branches. For 3 branches with multiple stairs where disabled access ramp could not be installed, we solved the accessibility issue with an elevator. We installed ramps with appropriate angle of inclination in other branches that are not located on the street level. We also installed audio alarm systems in all of our branches. Moreover, we started using induction loop systems (a system that reduces or cuts out background noise between the speaker and listener) for people with hearing loss. Our new Head Office is already an accessible building, and has been further improved by making small arrangements.
For our digital channels, we established ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ and started making necessary arrangements. We aim to complete the accessibility improvements in these channels in the second half of next year. Also, we have started incorporating young people into the development of projects to offer better banking services to people with disabilities. We organised an ‘Accessible Banking’ hackathon in February with students from Özyeğin University based on accessibility and universal design principles. We requested these young people to develop projects to address the needs of disabled individuals in accessing our Bank’s service channels. 9 teams consisting of 36 students developed project ideas. Their contribution has been very valuable for us as their approach and the projects they developed were realistic. We have already put 4 of these projects on our schedule for implementation in the future.”