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Prime Bank plans to double its retail, SME financing by 2021

MD and CEO tells The FE ahead of the PCB's 23rd anniversary

Siddique Islam | April 16, 2018 12:00:00

Rahel Ahmed

Prime Bank Limited (PBL) has planned to double its financing in retail as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sectors for minimising risks and diversifying portfolios by 2021.

Under the new plans, the investment in retail and SMEs would reach 40 per cent of its total loans and advances within the next four years from the existing level of 20 per cent.

"We'll double our investment in retail and SMEs as part of our vision for 2021," Rahel Ahmed, managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) of the PBL, told The FE in an exclusive interview recently.

After taking responsibility of the bank just four months ago on December 14 last year, Mr Ahmed shared the plan ahead of the bank's 23rd anniversary to boost the financial health of the leading private commercial bank (PCB).

He is a career banker and has been working as DMD and Chief Business Officer since joining the bank in early 2015.

The loans and advances of the bank grew by more than 16 per cent to Tk 198.23 billion as on December 31 last year from Tk 170.21 billion of the previous year.

Mr. Ahmed said Prime Bank was now diversifying its portfolios, aiming to add increased value to shareholders' investments and offer highest possible benefits to the valued customers by using latest technologies.

"We're also planning to expedite consumer financing in alignment with the country's demographic dividend," the CEO said, without elaborating.

The second-generation PCB has already taken different measures like introduction of transaction banking, corporate and institutional banking and early alert reporting systems for boosting business with minimising risk.

"We've already strengthened our monitoring and supervision by using modern tools to reduce the volume of non-performing loans (NPLs)," said the MD.

Total amount of NPLs of the PBL rose to Tk 10.80 billion in 2017 from Tk 10.14 billion a year ago while the share of classified loans to total outstanding came down to 5.45 per cent from 5.96 per cent.

The PBL kept provision against its NPLs aggressively to minimise the risks, according to the bank's CEO.

The PBL had taken different initiatives to expedite business particularly in apparel and clothing sector with hiring textile engineers for assessing the loan proposals properly.

"Our total foreign trade stands close to US$2.0 billion in 2017 which was competitively higher than that of previous level," the CEO explained.

The senior banker urged the authorities concerned to take effective measures for expediting the inflow of remittance along with export earnings for ensuring stability in the country's foreign exchange market.

He also suggested the banks to discourage opening of LCs (letters of credit) for less productive sectors. "The banks will manage foreign exchange from their own sources."

Some banks have been facing liquidity shortage since January this calendar year mainly due to mismatch of their funds, he added.

The senior banker also said the current year will not be easy for banking business mainly due to the election year along with liquidity pressure on the market.

Mr. Ahmed is a global banker of varied wholesale banking background having worked before in various leadership roles with two largest multinational banks in Bangladesh -- ANZ Grindlays Bank and Standard Chartered Bank -- for more than a decade.

He subsequently resided and worked in Dubai, UAE for around seven years to work for two of the largest regional banks, Emirates NBD Banking Group and First Gulf Bank in different senior roles including specialization in Islamic banking.

Currently, Prime Bank is operating its functions through 146 branches across the country. It started journey in 1995 with a firm commitment of excellent customer services with a difference.

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