Social Islami Bank Limited (SIBL), the country’s second generation shariah-based bank, commemorated its 24th anniversary on Friday. The bank’s ownership and management underwent a big change in 2017. The bank’s managing director and CEO Kazi Osman Ali talked to Prothom Alo in a recent interview, about the present state of the bank and its achievements over these 24 years.

Prothom Alo: What has Social Islami Bank achieved over the past 24 years since its founding?

Kazi Osman Ali: SIBL began as a second-generation bank. Over the past 24 years, the number of its clients has crossed 1.5 million. The clients are our driving force. Their satisfaction is our greatest achievement.

The bank has 158 branches all over the country, along with 108 agent banking outlets, 12 banking booths and 16 ATM booths. Many banks here do not have such a network. In the meantime, we have approached the Saudi central bank for permission to open a full-fledged branch in Saudi Arabia.

Prothom Alo: Default loans are one of the main problems afflicting the country’s banks at present. How does your bank stand in this regard?

Kazi Osman Ali: As we are involved in Islamic shariah-based banking, if any investment is overdue or its instalment dates are crossed, we cannot add this to the profits. Before we underwent a change in ownership and management, there were quite a few overdue instalments on investments. When I took over, I listed many of the overdue investments as classified loans so that the bank’s financial condition would improve. As a result, default loans increased somewhat in 2018, but toward the end of September this year, the default loans have significantly decreased. Hopefully these will go down further by the year’s end. We aim to bring default loans down to below 5 per cent within the next couple of years.

Prothom Alo: There has also been a serious liquidity crisis in the banking sector in recent times. How is your bank faring?

Kazi Osman Ali: There had been a liquidity crisis in the overall banking sector not long ago, but our bank did not face that crisis. Till date we have not failed even for a day to maintain our SLR (statutory liquidity ration) and CRR (cash reserve ratio) with the central bank. This would not have been possible if we faced a liquidity crisis.

In order to ensure that we do not face any such crisis in the future too, we have brought variety to our banking products. We have attractive banking products for senior citizens and women which have been met with good response. We are receiving deposits, Tk 1 billion (Tk 100 crore ) in total so far, from far flung areas of the country through our agents and booth banking. That is why we have a firm footing where liquidity is concerned.

Prothom Alo: According to Bangladesh Bank, much of your bank’s investment remains restricted to Dhaka and Chattogram.

Kazi Osman Ali: Most of our loans are city-based. Dhaka and Chattogram are the country’s two main cities and most of the industries, businesses and trade are centred here. So, like any other bank, a large chunk of our investment is in these two cities.

Given the socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, there is not much scope for providing industrial loans or doing business outside of Dhaka and Chattogram. Scope for large banking investments outside these two divisions is limited. However, we are trying to increase investment in Khulna, Rajshahi and Sylhet. But of course there has to be a demand. This is true of all banks. In the meantime, we are paying attention to mobile banking, agent banking and booth banking so that we can bring the poor population of the remote areas under Islamic banking services.

Prothom Alo: What are your future plans for the bank?

Kazi Osman Ali: Globally speaking, banking services are now reliant on technology. Clients avail banking services from their homes. So there is no alternative to technology-based banking if we want to draw in technology-friendly clients. So along with stepping up our technology-based services, we also have to ensure security in this regard too. We are placing importance on expanding secure and technology-based banking services.

Over the past two years since I took over, as part of the expansion of technology-based services, the bank introduced its own mobile app so that the clients can avail regular banking services from the comfort of their homes. We are also setting up a modern call centre and also increasing ATM services. Once all these initiatives are in place, SIBL will become a top ranking bank in the country over the next few years.

* This interview appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir