Racing ahead in the banking game

Tauqeer Muhajir
Filed on March 23, 2021

Khaleej Times recently interviewed Mohsin Ali Nathani, President and Chief Executive of HabibMetro Bank. Excerpts from the interview

Despite a difficult year, HabibMetro announced very good results for FY2020; what are your views for 2021?

We are immensely grateful for the blessings and mercy of the Almighty that enabled HabibMetro (and Pakistan's banking industry) to perform well, in what was, indeed, quite a challenging year. We were able to achieve and surpass many milestones in 2020 - we crossed Rs1 trillion in assets, our branch network crossed over 400 branches in 140 cities nation-wide and our profitability increased by over 80 per cent year-on-year.

We are hopeful to build upon this strong performance and work towards an even stronger financial performance in 2021. 

How do you see Pakistan's macro-economic situation going forward?

Pakistan is blessed to have the vision extended by the Government of Pakistan that has led the nation through the medical and health crises presented by the Covid-19, with a globally-recognised response directed toward managing the pandemic.

This vision was reinforced by the guidance extended by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in the form of various relief packages that supported the business community and provided Pakistan's economy with the stimulus required to get through the challenging time.

It is due to the efforts of the government and SBP that the country's economy ended the year 2020 on a growth trajectory, despite spending over six months of the year in various forms of lockdown and recovery modes.

Going forward, Pakistan's macro-economic situation is expected to pick up momentum on the back of strong investor confidence and improved economic fundamentals.

The Roshan Digital Account initiative seems to be a success. HabibMetro has contributed to this, how can this be further strengthened?

The Roshan Digital Account is a very timely initiative by the SBP that brings unparalleled banking and investment convenience to Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) and Resident Pakistanis with declared assets abroad. It is also geared toward benefiting Pakistan's economy tremendously by further improving investor confidence with increasingly streamlined inflows of remittances and investment. It provides a banking mechanism and formal channel to the government of Pakistan's vision of enhancing the engagement of non-resident Pakistanis in the country's banking and economic system.

The response and results of this still-nascent initiative are already greatly encouraging, with over $650 million having been attracted. Of this, over 5.5 per cent have been contributed through the efforts of HabibMetro, in just five weeks since the Bank's RDA launch for its customers.

We have an inherent advantage as providers of an offering that aims to connect Pakistanis residing - or owning declared assets - overseas, with their homeland.

Our parent bank, Habib Bank AG Zurich, is present in 10 countries including the UAE, UK and Canada that are key locations as far as the Pakistani diaspora is concerned.

I am confident that the awareness and adoption of this product will further increase over time enabling the provider banks to enhance their offering and serving capability.

Internationally, bank loans for small businesses and mortgages are major drivers for the economy, how can this be more accessible and affordable for Pakistanis?

Indeed the SME sector is the driving engine of economic growth; we have numerous examples of this in the international arena, the most remarkable of which is China.

SMEs drive growth and development in the economy by creating employment opportunities and generating foreign exchange through trade activities. They require access to affordable finance, more than any other business segment. They also require conducive policies and appropriate infrastructure to enable them to thrive and realise their potential.

SMEs are a key area of focus for banks in Pakistan. Under the guidance and dedicated efforts of the SBP, banks in Pakistan offer various specific products, services and facilities aimed toward providing financial intermediation designed specifically to cater to the unique needs and requirements of SMEs.

What CSR initiatives does HabibMetro support?

HabibMetro Bank is a socially responsible organisation that endeavours to contribute to a better tomorrow through various initiatives related to education, healthcare, sports, environment and social awareness.

Education is a cause that HabibMetro, and the House of Habib, are particularly passionate about. As a group and a bank, we support numerous institutes and initiatives that aim to raise the standard and access of education for those who may not have the financial means to support their aspirations and potential.

We are cognisant of our impact in creating a sustainable community and society. In challenging times, such as the ongoing pandemic, we endeavour to utilise our scale of operations for generating positive change. HabibMetro contributed to Pakistan's fight against the Covid-19 through CSR of over Rs55 million including a nationwide campaign of ration distribution, driving capacity enhancement at various hospitals, donation of PPEs for frontline workers and contribution towards the PM's Covid-19 Relief Fund.

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