Interview with Mohammad Shams Ul-Islam, Managing Director and CEO — Agrani Bank Limited
How has Agrani Bank Limited (ABL) contributed to Bangladesh’s economy, especially in the agricultural sector?
In terms of economic development, Bangladesh is a miracle. Today, thanks to the hard work and resilience of our people, we are one of the leading emerging economies in the world. The bank was born right after the independence and our name was given to us by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Agrani means “ahead of the rest,” and it has played a pioneering role in giving shape to the country’s economy. We are proud to say that we have played, and continue to play, a fundamental role in the development of agriculture. Our objective is to ensure that every single farmer has access to credit and most of our 943 branches are located in rural areas. Farmers can now get access to a wide range of products, including favourable loans with interest rates as low as 4%. In the past, Bangladesh was not self-sufficient in food. However, partly thanks to ABL making crop loans widely available, this has changed.
How is ABL helping to channel the wealth generated by the Bangladeshi diaspora?
Bangladesh has accumulated over $33 billion in reserves from the foreign remittances of non-resident Bangladeshis. At ABL, we offer a loan to those who want to work abroad and we provide hassle-free ways to send money back to the country. Currently, we have exchange houses in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Canada. In addition, we are encouraging non- residents to invest in government securities through savings products specifically designed for them. The yield of these products can be as high as 12%, even 12%. Given the low interest rates that we see in Europe and the US, this is a very attractive investment. All in all, we are giving the Bangladeshi diaspora incentives to bring their money back to Bangladesh through official channels.
“Agrani means ‘ahead of the rest,’ and it has played a pioneering role in giving shape to the country’s economy.”
ABL has received multiple awards. What award would you most like to win?
The fact that we have received many awards is a reflection of the fact that we are a leading bank in a wide range of things, including foreign remittances, service quality and automation processes. However, my goal is to win the award for being the best commercial bank in Bangladesh. Although we have a long way to go, we are in the right track and are lucky to have the expertise of a highly qualified board, led by prominent economist and researcher Dr. Zaid Bakht.What makes ABL different?
It is the only public bank without capital deficit or provision shortages, so the government doesn’t need to allocate more funds to recapitalise us. Our uniqueness is that, in a way, the 160 million inhabitants of this country are our owners — as we are owned by the people, it is the people we have to serve. As a result, we want to make banking accessible and help Bangladesh become a middle-income country. We are committed to continue supporting Bangladesh to become a self-reliant, robust, resilient and vibrant economy.