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Mercantile Bank: Mobile banking is the way to future


M Ehsanul Haque

Mercantile Bank has targeted mobile banking to make the most of the huge potential that cellular technology offers as part of its long-term goal of becoming a leading player in mobile financial service.

The private commercial bank has already made its foray into the country’s mobile financial service scene, re-launching its mobile bank platform MYCash in May this year.

About Tk 25 lakh is transacted through the service every day, according to M Ehsanul Haque, managing director of the bank.

“We are focusing on mobile banking due to its huge potential,” he said in an interview at the bank’s head office in the city recently.

The lender, which largely provides loans to apparel and textile industry, also aims to introduce multiple payment solutions for its mobile banking customers.

Mercantile now has around 1.5 lakh mobile banking accounts and is adding 3,000 new customers every day, according to Haque, who joined the bank in January last year as its chief executive.

At present, the bank provides nine services with MYCash, including cash-in, cash-out, send money, mobile top-up, bank deposit, deposit scheme, fund collection, salary disbursement and merchant payment.

The bank is relying on the country’s healthy mobile subscribers’ base, which stands upwards of 11.6 crore according to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s latest data.

Haque sees mobile financial service as a viable way of serving the un-banked, especially in rural areas, as the bank does not need to open branches to run the operation.

The average daily transactions through mobile phones soared 117 percent year-on-year to Tk 263 crore in March, according to Bangladesh Bank.

As of March this year, the country has had more than 1.50 crore mobile banking subscribers, up 2.77 percent from the previous month.

A third generation bank, Mercantile is also focusing on full-fledged automation for better customer service.

“We are installing modern core banking software to ensure quality service,” said Haque, adding that the bank plans to complete the installation by this year.

The 60-year-old said the software would strengthen the bank’s capacity to prevent fraud and enhance transparency.

Mercantile has 93 branches across the country and will open eight more branches this year. It also has plans to double the number of ATM booths to 250 within the next two years.

Haque, however, went on to stress upon a common ATM platform for all banks.

“An integrated platform will benefit all banks as they will not need to invest additional money for setting individual ATM booths.”

The bank has so far issued around 70,000 debit cards and 25,000 Visa credit cards.

Haque said his bank aims to increase its loan portfolio by around 19 percent within the next one and half years to make available more credit for customers, especially the corporate ones.

As of June this year, the private commercial bank’s outstanding loans stood at Tk 10,585 crore, and it plans to lend an additional Tk 2,000 crore by the end of 2015.

“We want to lend more in order to offset excess liquidity,” he said.

The bank’s total deposit stood at Tk 13,936 crore at the end of June this year, 6.04 percent higher from the same period last year.

“We are hopeful of reaching our loan disbursement target as many clients are now showing interest to borrow from us,” said Haque.

Recently, the bank cut its lending rate by around 2.5 percentage points to lure in customers.

Mercantile employs around 3,000 people and plans to recruit 50 more this year.

“We want to expand our operation mainly for serving more people and increasing our balance sheet size,” he said.

Haque started his career with Grindlays Bank some 35 years ago and went on to serve both national and international banks.

He also served as managing director of Prime Bank Ltd, Infrastructure Development Company Ltd, a non-bank financial institution, Brac Afghanistan Bank and Brac Bank.

The veteran banker also touched upon the recent banking scams involving Sonali and BASIC, and called for punishment for the wrong-doers.

“Only a handful of people are involved in such malpractices. The government should hand exemplary punishment to them with proper investigation.”

Haque, however, is not worried about the scams as “they are not a general trend; rather an isolated one” “It is very shocking as a section of people and the media are downplaying the banking sector just because of two or three incidents.”

Mercantile’s operating profit rose to Tk 230 crore during the January-June period, up from Tk 186 crore recorded for the same period last year, according to the MD.

Non-performing loans now stand at about 5 percent, 1 percentage point lower from last year. The bank has targeted to bring it down to 3 percent as soon as possible.

He said the banking sector was hit hard last year due to prolonged political unrest.”But the situation is improving with the normalcy of political environment,” he added.

Report: Suman Saha
Source: Daily Star

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