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EBL looks to expand regional footprint

FE Report | August 16, 2018 00:00:00

Eastern Bank Limited (EBL) has decided to open a full-fledged branch in Kolkata as a strategy to spread its wings to neighbouring India, before establishing regional footprint.

For strategic reasons, the bank has decided initially to open a branch in Kolkata and subsequently expand to other cities.

The bank's new chairman, Md. Showkat Ali Chowdhury, disclosed the information in a communication with the Financial Express, marking the EBL's 26th founding anniversary on August 16.

EBL was established on this day in 1992 from the ashes of the then collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). When the BCCI collapsed due to irregularities and mismanagement, Bangladesh Bank stepped in to rescue the bank and its depositors.

The bank was restructured as per the guidelines of the central bank and the depositors of the BCCI got shares in the new bank and became shareholders. A new bank styled 'Eastern Bank Limited' with 100 per cent Bangladeshi ownership began its journey.

Mr Chowdhury said that in its 26th year of operation, EBL stands for service excellence, corporate governance and its culture of ethical banking.

"The bank is not only a phenomenal success story, it is also poised to become a regional bank of East and Southeast Asia," he said.

The EBL chairman also pointed out that the bank has already tested success in overseas as its fully-owned subsidiary, EBL Finance (HK) Limited, in Hong Kong completed fourth year of business operation.

The Hong Kong subsidiary has successfully penetrated into Bangladesh-China trade corridor with an objective to capture Bangladesh-linked business. In 2017, its net asset growth was 94 per cent and the growth in profit after tax was 64 per cent.

"India is Bangladesh's key trading partner and the bilateral trade between the two countries is worth more than US$ 7.5 billion," said Mr Chowdhury while explaining the rational for opening up banking window in India. "The trade is set to go at $ 10 billion by 2018."

He also said that EBL is going to open a representative office in China while its Myanmar office is fully functioning.

"We are consistently performing for years together and there is nothing erratic or rash about our performance," he added. "In fact, that is how we weigh our performance parameter and our passion for performance drives us to be consistent all along."

The bank chairman asserted that the EBL's performance indicators are among the best in the country.

"Our Non-Performing Loan or NPL ratio in the past five years says a lot about our prudential management," he said. "Since 2014, our NPL is gradually decreasing and last year we closed our book at 2.50 per cent which was lowest in the industry."

EBL is also the most awarded bank in the country. It won the Euromoney Best Bank in Bangladesh award for the three consecutive years since 2016.

The Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services award adjudged EBL as the Best in Retail Bank in Bangladesh for the last six consecutive years since 2013.

The International Finance magazine in 2018 awarded EBL for the Best Credit Card Offering in Bangladesh. EBL has also been awarded at the prestigious Asian Banker Business Achievement Awards 2018 held in Beijing on May 24.

EBL is the only bank from Bangladesh to win Best Transaction Bank in Bangladesh Awards in both the categories of Best Cash Management and Trade Finance.

The EBL chairman also mentioned that it is the first bank in Bangladesh to achieve Ba3 ratings from world renowned ratings agency Moody's in 2016 and the rating was reaffirmed in 2017.

The new chairman of the bank also said that if he has to emphasize one area for future growth of the bank that would be employee management.

"Employees are the core brand of the company and differentiating factor with other organisations," he said. "If you have the right people in the right place, you don't need to worry about growth."

As a company, EBL invests a lot in skills development of its employees. The bank has a total of 654 certified staff working in different departments. Of them, 202 are internationally certified.

Mr. Chowdhury said that despite challenges in the global and local markets, the EBL is maintaining sustainable growth by leveraging its core strengths.

He was of the view that a company with strong ethical values and great culture survives market shocks better than others.

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