Prime Bank will be stepping into its 23rd year. Tell us about this long journey.
If I have to tell you about all 23 years, especially about the success of the bank, as the managing director and CEO firstly I would have to say; in the context of the reality of Bangladesh’s banking sector today, we have consistently upheld the confidence of both retail and corporate clients, and it is growing every day.
These days many banks are losing their deposits due to lack of clients’ trust. Our deposits are going up; which signals to us that client confidence in Prime Bank is on the rise, and that is our best achievement in this 23-year journey.
Moreover, Prime Bank is a pioneer in adopting many banking instruments in the country like retail or consumer banking, loan syndication. We did the first Islamic loan syndication, Bangladesh’s largest. So Prime bank has had somewhat of a leading role in banking.
So what’s the secret behind this success?
The secret to our success is very simple. We have always been very transparent. We are fully transparent in dealing with clients and shareholders. Although there is always a need to improve our services, we have been able to uphold the confidence and trust of clients because we always practice transparency. But we are not complacent. We have to improve, and we have adopted strategies for moving forward.
What plans do you have for the next five years?
We have already created a strategic road map targeting 2021. In the last three years, there have been many changes in the bank, the management has changed. In the last three years, we have also made some structural changes. We have been remodeling the branches. We used to have branch-based banking, and now it has become centralized; and in there we have introduced wholesale banking model and relationship management model in corporate banking.
The key focus area of Prime Bank for the next three to four years will be in SME banking and consumer banking. We have many things to do in these two instruments, and again Prime Bank will always come out as a bank with a difference.
You were appointed as the CEO on December 17 last year. What is your key focus as the chief?
My first and foremost focus is to ensure the quality of the assets of the bank and deliver a sustainable growth, which is the first and foremost demand of our shareholders.
Secondly, increasing our service excellence to the customers, internal and external shareholders; in this regard I will try to make the service delivery system better.
Thirdly, building skilled employees to expedite our diversified focus on consumer and MSME banking; and we are managing our internal population and strategic plans focusing on these.
Has the bank faced any failures?
I won’t call them failures; I would say challenges. The first challenge for us is the inherited loan portfolio, which is from before 2015, not of now. After 2015, we came up with a new appearance and all the loan portfolios since then have been absolutely perfect. There are some old loan portfolios, against which we maintain provisions gradually to make our books clean. In this regard, recovering the loans within shortest possible time is the challenge for us.
Another challenge is related to our customer service area. We need to improve service excellence, especially in consumer banking.
Now-a-days, cyber security is one of the key concerns for banks. What is your preparedness in this field?
We are always one step ahead in terms of cyber security measures. We have a proper information security department, we have invested a lot in it, and we have trained the department specially. We upgraded our core banking system six months ago, and we upgraded to a new system for our credit card and debit card, adopting chip-based cards. In every field of banking, we are working prioritizing information security.
What about the digitization in your banking services?
I have already said you that we have a strategic road map focusing on consumer banking and SME. To expedite consumer banking as well as SME banking, one of our most important strategic imperatives is to digitalize all banking processes as far as possible.
We are also trying to find skilled employees in the bank’s workforce, who have the knack for digitization, and we are providing training to them. We are working to improve the efficiency of all employees.
Tell us about the CSR activities of your bank.
You know that Prime Bank has established the Prime Bank Foundation to carry out its corporate social responsibilities (CSR) activities, and we donate 4% from our net annual profit to the foundation.
Prime Bank is proud to continue CSR activities for the country’s socio economic development, investing in education, eradicating and preventing disabilities, health care, health management, activities related to the prevention of environment degradation and promotion of environment, and supporting the families of martyrs of the Liberation War.
The bank has participated in major sponsorship programs in the area of sports including providing financial assistance to Bangladesh Cricket Board for development of the game.
We are sponsoring the national school cricket tournament, from where big cricketers will come out. Our contract as the sponsor will be continued for the next three years.
For the last few months, many private commercial banks in the country have been facing liquidity crisis. What about Prime Bank?
There is no liquidity crisis in our bank. The central bank prescribed in January to maintain advance-deposit ratio up to 83.5%. Our ADR was already below 83.5%. Now our AD ratio is around 82%. This is because our balance sheet management is very efficient.
Marking the 23rd anniversary of Prime Bank, what do you want to say to the shareholders?
I just want to thank the shareholders for being with us, and they should keep their trust and confidence on us. Because from our side we want to assure them that we are not going for massive profits but rather a sustainable growth in profits, and we want to maintain the quality of the bank’s assets.