When the majority of banks are struggling to survive from the ongoing financial meltdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Dhaka Bank has introduced a novel banking product that will help clients open their account from home.
The lender rolled out the product named "Account from Home" in mid-May to help clients open accounts by way of maintaining social distance, Emranul Huq, managing director of the bank, told The Daily Star in an interview recently.
The agents of the lender now deliver welcome pack at customers' doorstep (maintaining health and safety standard) including free debit card and cheque book and collect documents with their signature.
The banks' accounts are increasing at a faster pace after the product's launch, Huq said.
The lender, which marked its 25th anniversary on July 5, invested nearly $7 million last year to upgrade its online platform as part of its effort to make both the digital and virtual banking vibrant.
"This has helped run our business to a great extent at a time when banks from across the globe encourage clients to do banking while sitting from home to control the spread of the pandemic," Huq said.
The lender has already introduced a good number of digital products riding on the investment, which are serving its clients, he said.
Another virtual banking product namely "Dhaka Bank Trade Cloud" has recently been introduced, which now helps clients to open letters of credit sitting from their home and office.
The move is allowing clients to submit all export and import-related documents digitally. The businesses are being allowed to carry out trade-related procedures just by turning up at a branch once.
The bank, which commenced its commercial operation in 1995, is one of the leading players in trade-based financing in Bangladesh. It accounts for more than 3 per cent of the country's total trade volume.
Dhaka Bank initially started its journey with only one corresponding bank to do its foreign exchange related banking, but the number now stands at 450, in what can be viewed as the lender's growing acceptance across the globe.
"We are maintaining a credit line with 30 global banks and two multilateral organisations – International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank.
They have provided a remarkable amount of guarantee and funded loans due to Dhaka Bank's strong brand image, said Huq, who was promoted to the post of MD in February from the previous position of additional managing director. He has been with Dhaka Bank for 23 years now.
The lender is now campaigning to popularising its online product namely "Dhaka Bank Go" such that clients do their banking smoothly including inter-bank fund transfer, utility bill payment, mobile phone recharge and pay tuition fee for educational purpose.
Banks must improve their digital and virtual banking as the pandemic has given a lesson that manual banking is not possible all the time.
"Improving the skill in manpower is our core target in the days ahead. And we will make tech-savvy manpower to keep up with the time," Huq said.
Quality human asset, technology-based advancement and good corporate governance have been the lender's focus since its inception.
The principles have already given several awards.
Dhaka Bank received 9th IFC Trade Award 2019 as a Best Issuing Bank in South Asia for best utilisation and performance of the Global Trade Finance Program limit maintained with IFC.
Besides, the bank has been awarded 'Bank of the Year-2018 in Bangladesh' as the industry standard for banking excellence from The Banker (UK) for its strong management, sound business model, banking innovations and prudent Risk approach.
He also touched upon the ongoing situation in the banking sector, saying lenders will have to give their all-out effort to revive the economy as the majority of the stimulus packages will have to be implemented by them.
So, banks will have to implement the stimulus packages quickly.
The central bank has allocated Tk 758 crore for Dhaka Bank to disburse to large borrowers in the service and industrial sectors under the stimulus package of Tk 30,000 crore.
"We have already taken an initiative to disburse the amount to 257 clients," said Huq, who started his banking career in 1986.
But it is not an easy task as client selection and their assessment are highly important and time-consuming too.
Of the amount for the large borrowers, the lender has already sought approval from the central bank to disburse Tk 200 crore immediately.
Besides, the BB has allocated Tk 256 crore to disburse small and medium enterprises under the stimulus package of Tk 20,000 crore.
Meanwhile, the bank has already taken approval from its board and already started giving out the fund to the SME sector.
Dhaka Bank will distribute the reported stimulus funds within mid-August if the approval is secured.
Huq feared that both banks and borrowers would fall into deep trouble if the stimulus fund could not be disbursed to the market in time.
Profit in banks has already declined alarmingly since the last week of March when the government had restricted movement to control the pandemic.
The country's exports and imports were hit hard both by the local and global lockdowns.
Lenders' profit from the foreign trade plunged almost into zero during the lockdown.
He, however, said foreign exchange business in Dhaka Bank had strongly rebounded in May when the government started to relax the shutdown.
But, imposing a 9 per cent cap on all lending products except credit card has dealt a big blow to banks as 80-85 per cent of profit comes from the interest income.
"Against the backdrop, we have taken several measures to keep the wheel of the profit moving by way of cutting operating and deposit costs."
Although all banks may not achieve their annual profit target at the end of the year, Dhaka Bank is somewhat confident.
But banks have to take a cautious stance to curb the upward trend of defaulted loans as the loan moratorium for businesses will end in September.
As per the central bank instruction, borrowers are considered as regular clients until September despite non-payment of their loans instalments from January.
The central bank should extend the moratorium period until December to tackle defaulted loans.
Huq expressed his gratitude to the central bank as it had taken lots of initiatives to help both banks and borrowers.
He, however, said that banks should not consider the timeframe of the moratorium and they will give all-out effort to recover the loans to stop the deterioration of their financial health.
Banks will have to strictly monitor their clients' businesses such that they could take time befitting decision.
If banks adopt a relaxed attitude to this end, the entire banking sector will face a crisis.
He went on to express a hope that the foreign exchange reserve, which has recently crossed $36 billion, will help the nation to pick up its economy when the global businesses will get a tempo.
He, however, said that many of the importers have got an extension to clear the import bills for the time being, which has also widened the volume of the reserve.
The central bank should closely take care of the reserve such that the large deferred payment will not put any adverse impact on the volume.