Mercantile Bank Limited has taken a number of steps to broaden its activities in the areas of SME, IT-based banking and agent banking.
"Developing the small and medium enterprises (SME), flourishing the modern IT-based banking and opening agent banking services are our new targets, which in turn will broaden the financial inclusion," Md Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, managing director & CEO of Mercantile Bank Limited (MBL) told The FE in an interview recently.
MBL will complete 20 years of operation on June 2 next.
"We have disbursed Tk 30.25 billion among 9,400 SME clients till December 31, 2018 and it will be enhanced in near future to help propel the SME businesses across the country," the MBL MD said.
He said the theme slogan of the bank-Bank of Bengal-will get a meaningful reflection with the proper implementation of the new ventures so that teeming millions of the country are benefitted economically and socially.
"In order to facilitate agricultural activities and promote SMEs, MBL has taken a number of new projects to consolidate its contribution in promoting country's trade and business. Our new product lines in SME include 'factoring of receivables' and another one is 'Udayan' under which start-up entrepreneurs will get maximum Tk. 5.0 million for each project."
MBL also exhibits thriving performance while facilitating import and export trade. The Bank handled a total of BDT 46.05 billion of import and BDT 41.45 billion of export trade till March 31, 2019. The remittance in-flow was Tk 10.45 billion during this period.
In the first quarter till March 31, 2019, the bank earned profit worth Tk 1.59 billion, while the total deposit and advances were Tk 236.4 billion and Tk 226.11 billion respectively till March 31, 2019.
"The aim of MBL is to serve the people in a unique way and in 2014, we became the first - and only -commercial bank in Bangladesh to launch Monthly Saving Scheme in Mobile Banking for our clients. We have launched Core Banking Software 'TEMENOS T24'(R-ten Version) and non-stop service module as unique services. In the list of innovative and unique products, MBL operates Education Planning Deposit Scheme, SMS banking, internet banking."
Replying to a question on digital banking, the MBL MD said his team members are working to replace the traditional automated teller machines (ATMs) with cash recycler machines (CRM) that also allow cash to be credited in real time.
A CRM accepts cash, counts the notes, authenticates them and credits the amount to the bank account in real time.
Unlike an ATM that just allows cash withdrawal, a CRM accepts cash, counts the notes, authenticates them and credits the amount to the bank account in real time, reducing the manual labour for the service for banks.
At present, MBL has 170 ATM booths and 139 branches across the country.
"We will invest Tk 600 million to upgrade the Core Banking Software 'TEMENOS T24' within April, 2020," he informed.
He said banking sector of Bangladesh experienced remarkable progress in respect of automation in functioning, regulatory development & financial inclusion in last several years. But, there are still many challenges facing the banking industries and there is more room for improvement. Management of rising NPL, liquidity crisis, increased competition, establishing good governance, recent scams & increased regulatory pressure are among the top most challenges.
"Our NPL rate now hovers below 4.0 per cent and we remain very careful so that it does not worsen," the MBL chief executive asserted adding any kind of promiscuous lending or borrowing is strictly prohibited in MBL policy.
"MBL realises the potential to increase customer reach by offering agent banking services through agents for the rural customer who does not have access to formal banking system even through MyCash. As such, we are taking initiatives to formally launch our own agent banking services in near future. We are in process to establish a separate 'Agent Banking Department', which will serve wide range of customers throughout the country by providing banking and financial services with the help of mobile telecommunication devices/ computer system/ using biometric technology."
For MBL, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been an inherited and inbuilt element of its culture from its inauguration which is overseen by the Mercantile Bank Foundation (MBF). MBL contributes 1.0 per cent of its operating profit or BDT 4.0 million, which one is higher, to the Foundation every year for caring the distressed and disabled people of the country. The funding policy has focused on five major areas: Community outreach, Health & Medical research, Education Arts & Culture and Development of Sports.
From 2011, MBF launched a new scholarship program, "Mercantile Bank Abdul Jalil Education Scholarship". Under this programme, MBL provided scholarship among the meritorious but poor students Mercantile Bank Foundation always tries to continue broadening the scope of its impact through its pioneering social programmes. Since inception, the foundation has been awarding some noted intellectual personalities of the society for their outstanding performance and contribution in their respective fields.
Mercantile Bank Limited has introduced MBL Young Bankers Appreciation Award among the young talented private commercial bankers in 2018. Basically, the aim of this award is to inspire young bankers and make them more professional.
Mr Quamrul Islam Chowdhury was promoted as Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of MBL on February 24 last.
Earlier he was the Additional Managing Director & Chief Business Officer of the Bank.
After completing his Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) and Masters Degree with major in Marketing from the University of Dhaka, he started his career in 1983 as a probationary officer in National Bank. Afterwards, he moved to NCC Bank, prior to joining MBL.
He is the son of freedom fighter, MA Halim who actively contributed to broadcast the proclamation of liberation war of 1971 through 'Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra'.