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BRAC Bank adopts 'phygital' strategy to grow bigger

MD tells the FE

Siddique Islam | February 02, 2022 00:00:00

Selim R. F. Hussain

BRAC Bank Limited has embraced a multi-channel strategy with a combination of physical and digital capabilities to reach out to more people and expand the businesses across the country, the bank's top executive has said.

"Bangladesh is definitely moving towards becoming a cashless society, but it will take time to fully become a digital economy or start neo banking. Cash will remain the king for sometime. At this point of time, operating 'physitally' would be the right strategy to expand business. It has to be a nice mix of high-tech and high-touch approaches," Selim R. F. Hussain, managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of BRAC Bank, said while sharing the bank's future plans in an exclusive interview with the Financial Express (FE) recently.

Taking stock of socio-economic condition, state of technological infrastructure and different customer segments, it is so important to choose the right balance between physical branches and digital services, which is popularly coined as 'phygital', to reach to people of different strata of society and become successful in Bangladesh, according to the CEO.

"At BRAC Bank, we embarked on a digital transformation journey three years back to roll out new technology aiming at ensuring the best-in-class services to our customers. We have already deployed core banking system, card management system, mobile banking app'Astha', internet banking for Corporate Customers -CorpNet, call centre to provide comfort, delight and convenience in customer experience," he noted.

At the same time, BRAC Bank is rapidly expanding its Agent Banking network to serve the unbanked at the remote part of the country. We already have presence in 64 districts through 700 plus outlets and by 2022, we hope to attain at 1,000, the CEO explained.

BRAC Bank has also obtained Bangladesh Bank's approval to open 360 sub-branches to further reinforce its physical network. The bank is expected to open all the sub-branches in a few years.

"Our Astha App is a world-class app which brings most modern banking services at the fingertips providing the customers the liberty to do banking from anywhere and anytime," Mr. Hussain said.

"We will invest continuously to upgrade our digital capabilities to bring the best for our customers and keep abreast with the technological revolution happening in the banking industry around the world," the CEO said while replying to another query.

Riding on the massive expansion plan, BRAC Bank has planned to double its business within the next four years by implementing its multi-channel strategy to serve the customers across geography and demography, the bank's top executive said.

"We have planned to double our business in all segments in the next four years of my tenure through expanding our operations across the country," Mr Hussain said who has already been reappointed to lead BRAC Bank till March 2026.

'Small is beautiful, but big is impactful,' the CEO quoted the bank's founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, as saying. To him these timeless words of Sir Abed continue to inspire him to focus on scalability of operations to touch more people.

"We want to be very big in Bangladesh by bringing more un-banked people into the banking network through offering tech-based products and services," explained the seasoned banker who has over 36 years of experience in South Asian financial institutions.

"We are determined to take BRAC Bank to the next level in terms of market share, while continuing to progress the financial inclusion and values-based development agenda of our founding Chairperson, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed," he continued.

BRAC Bank is celebrating its journey of two decades of progress. The bank has played a catalytic role in socioeconomic development of Bangladesh in the last 20 years as a vibrant financial institution particularly focusing on the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector.

Since stepping into business in 2001, BRAC Bank has so far provided Tk 1.0 trillion loans to around one million customers in the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) sector. It has emerged as the largest collateral-free SME financier in just 20 years of its operation in this segment.

"In terms of employment generation, poverty alleviation and overall socioeconomic development, the CMSMEs sector is more important than any other sector in our country," Mr Hussain noted.

The CEO also praises SME entrepreneurs as resilient and compliant, saying that the non-performing loans (NPLs) ratio in the SME segment is now all time low at below 2.50 per cent.

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