BRAC Bank: Sustainable Banking In the Context of Developing Countries



Working on sustainable banking for economic development is no more an elusive dream for the developing countries, not for Bangladesh at least. BRAC Bank, a leading bank of the country has already made it possible. The bank is the founder of the world's most effective network of the sustainable banks around the globe. I would here like to share some my experience being involved with the bank's Research & Development on sustainable banking strategies.

BRAC Bank won the ‘Best Retail Bank in Bangladesh’ award for 2010 administered by the Asian Banker in the 10th International excellence program held in Kualalumpur. This is to reiterate to the most enthusiasts of development, who might already know that BRAC Bank is owned partially by BRAC, the largest non-government organization in the world, and also International Finance Corporation (IFC) the private sector arm of The World Bank Group, and ShoreCap International. Its founder Chairman Sir Fazle Hasan Abed is also the co-founder of Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a network of world's leading sustainable banks all of whom have values-driven agenda at the core of their mission and they are mostly working on development of the low-income sector of their respective countries. My organization BRAC Bank is one of the fourteen members of GABV, including the newest members like BancoSol who focus on low-income sectors in Bolivia; American Community Development Bank, OneCalifornia Bank, Canada's largest credit union, Vancity and Norwegian sustainable banking specialists, Cultura Bank. The bank as well as others in the alliance value people and the environment in addition to the traditional economic objective of profit. They are working to build a powerful voice for sustainable banking as a model for a very different future for finance. The bank's Research & Development department is relentlessly involved with various research works ranging from retail product development, improvement of foreign currency remittance inflow and poverty alleviation through SME loans.

As Product Manager of such an organization described above, I had ample opportunity to closely work with the bank’s R&D Team to introduce innovative products and services, with the vision in mind to serve the underserved people, communities and the environment. Some of my mentionable achievements include introducing the Planet Card, an ATM debit card through which the user can contribute to create Green Fund. I am very fortunate because I have also observed many innovative initiatives in the bank such as the “Krishok Card” (meaning: Card for the Farmers) – first ever credit card for peasants and farmers to help them purchase seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural items on emergency when they are in severe credit crisis. The bank believes this will help them have more opportunity to take enterprising ventures. The bank is also the pioneer in remittance services in the country with the widest network across the country to reach the population in the remotest parts of the country. An online, web based facility called “El Dorado” is used to facilitate the whole remittance process. This service has proved to be very instrumental for the underserved population because a significant portion of these families heavily rely on remittances sent from their family members (mainly unskilled to semi-skilled labors) working abroad. Therefore, sustainable banking model is something that was a part and parcel of my daily professional experience.

Not only these underserved people were introduced to the state-of-the-art banking facility, but they are also very assured of the fact that their hard earned money is safer in a bank, and many of them also grew savings habits. This savings habit along with their access to fast and convenient credit facility, mostly microloans and SME loans are giving them the hope of a better and solvent future. As more and more banks will evolve around the sustainable banking practices, the more we will be able to rip the benefits of economic freedom.

Syed Shurid Khan

BRAC Bank Limited

Dhaka, Bangladesh.