Ataur Rahman Pradhan, managing director (MD) of state-owned Sonali Bank, has downplayed its report on a capital deficit, saying in reality it is a deficit on paper only.
"There would be no capital deficit if the commission on letters of credit (LCs) for the Rooppur nuclear power project and free social safety services could be shown as bank profit," he said at a press conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the institution on Wednesday.
"We were supposed to receive Tk5,000 crore from the Rooppur project as commission but we did not get it," he said. "If we add the profit that Sonali Bank has given to the government from 1972 to 2021, there would be no capital deficit," he added.
The managing director said the amount of capital the bank has is not affecting its lending. Capital deficit is a big issue especially when it comes to doing business with banks outside the country. Consequently the bank has to pay an extra charge for LC confirmation by accessing risks.
"We need a good balance sheet and if we could fill the capital deficit we would be better off in all respects. We have submitted three proposals to the Bangladesh Bank and the finance ministry in this regard. If we make a profit, we give it to the government and the government also has the discretionary authority to manage the deficit properly," he added.
Talking about the progress of Sonali Bank, he said, in 1972 the bank had deposits of Tk385 crore. At present deposits stand at Tk1.40 lakh crore. The bank started lending with just Tk85 crore and now it has Tk69,000 crore given out in loans.
The managing director said Sonali Bank had an operating profit of Tk433 crore in March last year which rose to Tk568 crore in March this year. As such, profits have increased Tk135 crore in the last one year.
"Sonali Bank was more profitable than any other bank in 2020 which continued in 2021 too, and the March 2022 quarter was even more successful," he added.
Regarding customer service, he said, starting from when we were mostly an agricultural economy, Sonali Bank has been playing an important role in developing the industrial economy of Bangladesh since 1972. At present, it has the highest number of customers among state-owned banks.
In the pandemic, he said they tried to get out of manual service with extensive development in its IT sector. Now, with about 500 officers working, the bank's balance sheet is being closed in just six hours, where it used to take about 3/6 days in the past.
Regarding the bank's deposit and Advance Deposit Ratio (ADR), he said in March 2021, Sonali Bank's deposits amounted to Tk1.26 lakh crore. In March this year, deposits stood at Tk1.31 lakh crore. At the same time, the three-month advance deposit ratio has increased by 3% to 54.37%.
About mobile app Sonali e-wallet, he said, customer service has increased with the app. Now, pension money and freedom fighter allowances are going through the electronic system. Remittances from abroad are being credited to accounts in just five seconds over the bank's latest platform. This service is the first in South Asia and remittances are increasing day by day.
"We have a huge expansion in the IT sector and now one can open an account in just two minutes. It has spread widely. Now all kinds of utility bills are being paid sitting at home," he said.
"We want a cashless society when cashless transactions are being introduced all over the world," he added.