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Mercantile Bank Shifts Focus to Financial Inclusion and Technological Excellence

Mercantile Bank PLC is shifting its focus from corporate lending to providing more loans to small and medium enterprises, retail, and agriculture sectors to include unbanked individuals, according to CEO Md Quamrul Islam Chowdhury.

“We provide credit to aspiring entrepreneurs who lack funds,” Chowdhury said in an interview with The Daily Star. “Our priority is delivering banking services to marginalized communities and ensuring smart banking through technological excellence.”

Founded on June 2, 1999, Mercantile Bank now offers personalized, technology-driven services through 152 branches, 42 sub-branches, 198 ATMs, and 187 agent banking outlets. Despite challenges, the bank has grown sustainably. By December, assets grew by 5.19% to Tk 40,217 crore, with deposits at Tk 32,478 crore and loans at Tk 28,844 crore as of March.

“Since its inception, the bank has built a credible brand and earned customer loyalty,” Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury, who holds a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Dhaka, began his banking career at National Bank in 1983, later joining National Credit and Commerce Bank, and Mercantile Bank in 2001. He became Managing Director in February 2019.

Mercantile Bank leverages modern technologies to deliver quick services, offering online, SMS, and internet banking, along with 24/7 ATM and contact center services. It uses the “TEMENOS T24” integrated banking software platform.

“We are committed to prioritizing cutting-edge technology in our operations,” said Chowdhury. “We will continue enhancing our workforce’s skills and balancing risks and profits.”

The bank reduced bad loans last year through recovery efforts and alternative dispute resolution, lowering the non-performing loan ratio to 6.08% from 7.9% the previous year. Chowdhury acknowledged sector challenges like rising default loans and operational inefficiencies, supporting the central bank’s market-driven interest rate initiative.

To promote financial inclusion, Mercantile Bank established a financial inclusion department in 2016. It offers credit through two refinance schemes: a Tk 500 crore scheme for low-balance account holders and a Tk 3,000 crore scheme for Covid-19-affected low-income individuals and small business owners.

“We have a network to reach unbanked and under-banked sections of society,” Chowdhury said. The bank also operates through three subsidiaries, two offshore banking units, internet banking, and mobile banking.

Despite uncertainties, Chowdhury is optimistic about business growth as the crisis abates. Mercantile Bank has received numerous awards, including the 23rd ICAB National Award and the Elite Quality Recognition Award-2021 by JP Morgan, for its commitment to customer service and good governance.

“These awards testify to our commitment to transparency,” Chowdhury added.

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