ASHOK SUMSHER RANA, chief executive officer of Himalayan Bank Ltd, is well known name in banking sector. As Himalayan Bank celebrated 19th anniversary, President of Banker Association Nepal, Rana spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues related to Bank’s performance. Excerpts:
How has Himalayan Bank ventured till now?
We have completed nineteen years, and next year will be our twentieth anniversary. It does not seem so long ago that we started our operations on the first floor of the KSK building with about 15,000 sq. ft. of office space and around 50 staff. Today we have 38 branches and over 600 staff working for the bank. To inaugurate our building in the heart of the capital and in and amongst our peers is also a source of great pride and achievement for us.
How do you see Bank’s progress?
We began with a capital base of Rs. 60 million and now our capital base excluding reserves, stands at Rs. 2.4 billion. This has been achieved through our internal generation and profits and HJBL is one of the few banks not to issue rights shares to comply with Nepal Rastra Bank’s capital requirements. Along the way, we have paid out Rs. 1.93 billion in cash dividends and Rs. 2.43 billion as stock dividends or Bonus shares to our shareholders. I think that this has been a remarkable achievement as well. We had a profit of Rs. 1.15 billion last fiscal year. Our deposits have reached over Rs. 43 billion and our loans and advances over Rs. 35 billion.
What are the main achievements of the bank?
Himalayan Bank has been a pioneer in providing banking products and services to the Nepalese public. We were the first to offer a premium saving account with accident insurance that has been copied by all, the first to introduce credit cards and the first bank to put up an ATM in the country. We now operate 67 ATMs throughout the country. We are the principle member of Master card and Visa and are the settlement and gateway bank to all partner banks of Nepal’s largest shared payments network, SCT. We have been chosen by the Japan credit Bureau, JCB as its sole partner in Nepal and are in the process to roll out its card services soon. Likewise China Union Pay has also chosen us as their primary partner to implement their card solutions in Nepal. Lastly even American Express is actively engaging us to be their partner bank in Nepal. The Board has finally given its approval and we will move forward on this project.
Remittances have become a strong part of the country’s economy in the current context. What are the things that Himalayan bank has done in this context?
We have become the largest bank handling remittances in Nepal and now handle over USD 60 million in remittances per month and have over 2,500 payout agents and counters all over the country. Himal Remit has become a product and a brand name in its own right, We are the first bank in South Asia and the second bank in all Asia and the 18th bank in the whole world to implement and receive SWIFT’s workers Remittance Certificate.
What is the Himalayan bank doing to fulfill its CSR?
We have also been fulfilling our Corporate Social responsibility through the support and sponsorship of various social organizations and sports and are actively engaged in helping the poor and disadvantaged. We have been investing in the deprived sector in a responsible way and have been active participants in the apex microfinance institution RMDC since almost its inception.
How is it looking at the current competitive banking environment?
The banking environment is becoming increasingly challenging and we look upon these challenges as an opportunity to improve our services by introducing new schemes and products through our investment in technology and human resources. We also need to respond to the challenges of increasing our outreach to the rural sector. NRB has mandated that Banks need to increase their lending to the Agricultural and Hydropower sector. We are gearing up to fulfill this directive.
If any of the major banks contemplate a merger then I think that it give an impetus to all of us to try and consolidate our capital and competitive position in our sector. I hope that this will happen soon.