Nazmur Rahim, Head of Retail Banking, BRAC Bank Limited

Over the years of the country’s economic progression, BRAC Bank has played a vital role in taking SME banking to the people of Bangladesh. Today, already with the largest Retail Banking Book in the market, BRAC Bank is set on making its mark with its Retail and Coporate Banking portfolios as well. Team IBT ended up in a discussion with Mr. Nazmur Rahim, Head of Retail Banking, BRAC Bank, to find out more about the prospects of the bank and the industry itself.
Mr. Rahim began his career in 1997 as a Management Trainee in ANZ Grindlays Bank where his initial assignment was to develop the Cards Business of the Chittagong Region. After the acquisition of the Grindlays franchisee by Standard Chartered, he was assigned to look after the merchant acquiring business of Bangladesh. During his tenure at SCB, he worked in customer service, sales and portfolio management of Credit Cards and Deposits. He worked as the Head of Cards Business in AB Bank Limited from 2011 until he joined BRAC Bank in 2016.

“Our current reach of 186 branches, 476 ATMs, and 448 SME Unit offices is providing us the necessary infrastructural support required for our operations.”

What steps are you taking towards your vision of making BRAC Bank, the largest Bank in the country?
Our long term vision specifically requires us to focus on three major components – technology, people, and processes.
Gone are the days when adapting to new technologies was just a matter of choice. Innovation has become a necessity to survive in today’s generation. Today, technology is also one of the driving forces that stimulates competition between businesses all over the world. Therefore, at BRAC Bank, we are constantly on the look out for bringing in new technological competencies into our system here at BRAC Bank. Side by side, I think it is also very important for any bank to produce leaders that will take the business to the next level. Thus, we prefer investing extensively in our human resources. Moreover, the work processes in our bank are being made comparatively swifter which gives us leverage over other banks.

What are the areas of concentration for BRAC Bank at this stage of operation?
On the products side, at this point in time, we are emphasizing more on services like credit cards and personal loans. There is a lot that needs to be done to educate the consumers who are still unaware of the benefits of these services; our main focus is the middle-income segment. It is seen that people with a lower socio-economic status are often exposed to vulnerable situations where the need for such services should be highlighted. Thus, we are all set to develop a market wherever there is potential especially in the regions outside Dhaka. Our current reach of 186 branches, 476 ATMs, and 448 SME Unit offices is providing us the necessary infrastructural support required for our operations.

There is a portfolio of banks available in the market, but there is still a portion of the population which remains unbanked. How is BRAC Bank trying to bring these people under the banking net? What are the possible challenges faced by BRAC Bank in such a scenario?
Yes, it is true that we still live in an economy where a lot of people are residing outside the banking net, especially in the rural areas. In such areas, there is a lack of knowledge about the existence of banking services and geographical barriers often discourage people from using them. However, with the help of our subsidiary Bkash, our bank has managed to bring a small portion of this huge segment of unbanked people into the banking net, and we further plan on exploring its potential in the future.
Talking about difficulties, our main challenge at the moment is to introduce agent banking. Although our first attempt at gaining a license did not work out, further attempts are continuously being made in this regard. Agent banking will help us to provide limited scale banking and financial services to the underserved population through engaged agents under a valid agency agreement. The banking transactions being conducted by the owner of an outlet on behalf of our bank will help us disseminate our services to geographically dispersed areas. Thus, we are placing much effort to tackle this challenge as soon as possible.

“To ensure acceptability and the success of a product or campaign, we involve the collaborative participation of Product, Marketing, Sales, Branch people right from the initial stage.”

A dearth of the skilled human resource exists in Bangladesh. Is there anything that your bank is doing to develop new skills for the employees?
Our bank’s expertise lies in the Management Trainee Program which is designed to turn the fresh graduates into skilled human resources that will work as valuable assets for the industry. Furthermore, our efficient training programmes and the targets set for each individual, exposes them to a challenging environment that helps to get the best out of them. Constant evaluation and incentives provided for good performance help keep our employees motivated and help them to be more efficient.

As the country is moving towards automation, a lot of change has been observed in the banking system recently. What other innovative banking services, like the non-branch Banking and RTGS shall we look forward to?
Apart from services like RTGS and non-branch marketing our country should look forward to services like app-based banking, use of artificial intelligence and biometric banking. However, huge infrastructural support is needed before an individual can pay for anything sitting at home via his or her app-based banking and get loans sanctioned within a few minutes.

What unique services is BRAC bank planning to introduce next? Tell us about the measures you are taking to reduce the increasing number of nonperforming loans (NPL), as well as to cut down on the rate of interest.
To ensure customer convenience and to improve customer experience, we are now focusing heavily on digital channels namely Call Center, Internet Banking, ATM, CDM etc. In this process, we are upgrading our Call Center, Internet Banking and e-commerce platforms to offer innovative services.
Our NPL is currently lower than the industry average. However, to improve more efficiency in collections, we have restructured the collections model by making combined efforts between multiple units, closely monitoring and increasing face to face meeting with the deliquent customers.
Interest is completely driven by the market and we manage our Balance Sheet by taking prudent decisions on market re-alignment.

What KPIs do you use to measure the effectiveness of your employees?
Our net figures help us to measure the effectiveness of our employees. Apart from that, we have changed our commission pay structure to better motivate employees and track their progress. Our sales teams are provided incentives upon fulfillment of their given targets, and continuous evaluation helps them become more efficient.

How positive are you about the possible changes that the innovative services may bring to the banking environment in our country?
The introduction of the innovative services in our country would contribute much to its economic environment. The initiation of such services would enhance the lifestyle of consumers by reducing wastage of time to a great extent. Automation of service in the industry would also help to reduce the lead time in many cases. Thus, I’m positive towards such changes.

What makes BRAC Bank’s retail marketing approach differ from that of other banks and financial institutions?
Our retail marketing approach which was previously product-centric has now turned consumer-centric. We are now emphasizing more on ensuring customer satisfaction than sales. We will develop and package a product to fit the needs of our customers.
Moreover, all our tasks have an integrated approach towards it. For example, to esnure acceptability and the success of a product or campaign, we involve the collaborative participation of Product, Marketing, Sales, Branch people right from the initial stage. Gone are the days when product develops, marketing desingns and Branch and Sales sells and services. It is much more of a concerted and well developed effort. This is one of the main things that make our retail marketing approach differ from that of other banks and financial institutions.

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