Pubali Bank has consistently been at the forefront of delivering digital services and continues to further elevate its service standards. However, the bank is yet to establish a strong brand image despite exhibiting commendable financial performance across various metrics, such as operating profit and managing classified loans.
Against such a background, the bank means to dedicate its attention to crafting a strong brand image in the upcoming five years.
Pubali Bank's MD and CEO Mohammad Ali shared the above information along with other valuable insights in a recent exclusive interview with The Business Standard.
Following are excerpts from the interview.
How is Pubali Bank performing?
Established in 1959 as a state-owned bank, our journey was initially challenging, marked by high classified loans. Privatised in 1984, reforms gradually transformed our performance trajectory.
Since 2007, we've excelled, rising from the 22nd position to the top operational profit bank in Bangladesh.
One of the reasons for this is corporate governance. There is no interference from the Board of Directors in our work.
Besides, we harnessed local innovation for tech advancements, like core banking. Our local technologists were pivotal in achieving nationwide core banking in 2014, meeting our goal of no foreign spending.
Our profits reached Tk693 crore in the first six months of this year, with soaring earnings per share, and classified loans below 2.5%. Even as deposit crises engulf most other banks, ours thrives due to growing public trust.
Our vision for customer-centric lifelong banking has led to enduring relationships. Our talented staff bolster these accomplishments.
To propel Digital Bangladesh, we offer free digital services. So far it is not free in any other bank. Our commitment remains steadfast as we intensify this endeavour.
At the end of last year, Pubali Bank gave several incentive bonuses to its employees. How has this bonus affected employees?
Last year, we provided six incentive bonuses, five the previous year, and four and a half during the Covid-19 period.
Despite this, we increased our salary scale by 30%, a significant move considering the pandemic-related layoffs across the country. Additionally, we've been consistently offering Boishakhi allowances.
While these initiatives raised our annual expenses by around Tk200 crore, they've also boosted our profits. Proper financial recognition enhances employee morale and job satisfaction, ultimately influencing customer service quality.
A decade ago, nearly half of our newly hired staff would seek opportunities elsewhere. Today, professionals from various banks and organisations express their interest in joining us.
Our bank now attracts a wider range of candidates, reflecting the changing dynamics.
Loan defaults are very low in Pubali Bank. How has that been possible?
Selecting reliable borrowers drastically reduces default risk by around 90%. Rigorous quality checks are pivotal prior to loan approval, despite various pressures. Units disbursing loans must have autonomy.
Well-vetted loans tend to have lower chances of classification. A continuous monitoring of loan transactions is also vital.
Creating a culture of security and support for workers can be established through top-down commitment, effectively minimising classifications.
Corporate governance implementation can also significantly curtail risks.
After Covid, all banks are bringing in digital services. What is your focus?
Due to our aversion to publicity, many are unaware of our pioneering initiatives. Pubali Bank has acted as the leader in every digital initiative. Our online transactions are among the industry's highest, with a rising customer base for internet and online banking.
We will soon initiate the convenience of opening bank accounts from the comfort of one's home. To this end, we've established a Digital Team, Alternate Delivery Channel Division and Marketing Team.
Besides, we will move more towards digital payments by adding 50,000 point of sale (POS) machines to the network by 2024.
We will focus on digital marketing to inform people of our technological progress and deliver services at everyone's doorstep.
What is Pubali Bank's target for the next five years?
Our foremost goal is bolstering our brand image. We aim for Pubali Bank to be synonymous with being the top bank in everyone's perception.
Despite strong financial performance, our branding has lagged. We aspire to be the customer's preferred choice across technology, corporate loans and retail deposits.
By focusing on customer-centricity and effective branding, we can carve a la sting niche in people's minds.