Turkey’s economy made a positive start to 2020 after capping off 2019 with accelerated growth and positive economic indicators. In January, although all economic data, particularly exports, were in line with those set out in the annual plans, as of February, a new agenda has emerged for the Turkish economy, as well as the other world economies, with the emergence of a new type of coronavirus, which has engulfed the entire world.
Turkey has succeeded in becoming a country that inspires trust in its citizens with its advanced healthcare system by implementing measures against this new type of coronavirus, where vaccination and treatment efforts continue at an intense pace. Measures taken by our government to mitigate the possible impact of anti-coronavirus efforts on our country’s economy boosted our national resistance to the pandemic.
The Economic Stability Shield program, launched under the coordination of the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, has served as an action plan that prioritizes the creation of tailor-made solutions for the state-owned banks to different customer profiles and all professional segments. Public banks have made great effort to achieve success in implementing these steps, which aim to protect both the household economy and the financial structure of businesses of different sizes. The debt deferment facilities we offer to prevent our citizens from experiencing payment problems have given a breather to all segments of society.
One of these facilities is the Artisan Support Package, which was implemented by our Bank to protect artisans and craftsmen. The Paraf Esnaf Card received great interest from our customers in this period, with a working capital loan of up to 25,000 Turkish lira and a limit of up to 25,000 Turkish lira. Small businesses have not only been able to meet their liquidity needs through the Working Capital Loan but also process their transactions with their suppliers with the Paraf Esnaf Card, which offers a grace period of three months to holders.
Our Bank also developed a Business Continuity Loan Support – Lifeline Working Capital Loan to help our businesses, which have been negatively affected by the new type of coronavirus outbreak, to continue as going concerns and maintain their current employment levels. This loan, which was implemented with the support of the Credit Guarantee Fund, aims to protect employment in our country by keeping the companies from reducing the number of registered employees as of February 2020 as a prerequisite.
In the same period, a Check Payment Support Loan was established to provide funds for the payment of checks that Halkbank customers have drawn up based on their actual commercial transactions and that they will issue as part of their commercial activities. With this product, our Bank has continued to contribute to maintaining the environment of confidence in the market and protecting the commercial reputation of companies.
Our Bank has supported the monthly household income of 5,000 Turkish lira and less, as well as minimum wage earners, pensioners, the self-employed and other middle and low-income groups with the Personal Basic Need Support Loan. This loan has attracted great interest from our citizens, allowing our low-income customers to meet their basic needs such as healthcare, rent, utility payments and food with a six-month grace period.
In the first quarter, as we introduced new products for customer groups of different sizes, our Bank employees worked with extraordinary dedication to delivering a performance worthy of Halkbank’s brand and reputation. Our 21,000 employees at 1,000 branches throughout Turkey maintained the outstanding service quality of our Bank and made great efforts to complete the transactions in the fastest way possible.
Our Bank has planned a detailed measures program to protect the health of our employees and customers. The practices implemented in this period have been carefully monitored by our Head Office. During this period, as we increased the in-branch measures and strictly followed social distance rules, we often undertook disinfection efforts. To reduce crowding at our branches, we directed our customers to alternative distribution channels as much as possible and continued our efforts to accommodate rising demand for these channels.
At the end of the first quarter of 2020, as the global economy faced a deep problem, our Bank increased its total assets by 7.5 percent to 491.2 billion Turkish lira, compared to year-end 2019, and increased its total deposits to 327.2 billion Turkish lira. Over the same period, our cash loans rose by 12.5 percent to 347.9 billion Turkish lira; and our total loans, including non-cash loans, increased by 10.6 percent to 441.5 billion Turkish lira. Our commercial loan volume, including SME loans, increased by 13.6 percent to 292.5 billion Turkish lira and we achieved a 19.4 percent market share in SME banking for 2019.
In this period, we use our resources meticulously and put people first in everything we did. The efforts we undertake with the support of our investors have bolstered the reputation of our Bank. We believe that we will overcome the negative effects of this catastrophe that humanity is facing, and we express our gratitude to all our stakeholders for helping us along the way.