The bank has also stepped up its CSR activities as part of its effort to fight the pandemic in Bangladesh
When most banks are under deposit withdrawal pressure due to the Covid-19 crisis, the new generation NRB Commercial Bank has seen a high deposit flow.
This is because the bank kept all 107 of its branches open – while ensuring adequate protection for employees – even during the pandemic, Chairman Parvez Tamal told The Business Standard in an interview.
"During this coronavirus crisis, NRBC is the only bank which has kept all its branches open," he said, adding the bank has gained 45,000 new depositors since March. Clients have since withdrawn Tk280 crore, but the bank received Tk450 crore in new deposits during the period.
According to Pavel, the biggest challenge facing the banking sector at the moment is keeping the profit trend up, now that interests have been suspended.
"The Bangladesh Bank has supported the banks enough by easing regulatory conditions for the flow of money supply," he said.
Tamal added that capping the lending rate at 9 percent has posed a challenge for new generation banks as their cost of funds are comparatively high, though NRBC has managed a relatively low cost of fund.
Furthermore, when most banks have cut their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities amid eroding profits, NRB Commercial has extended its hand to people by introducing general medical services for clients and staff.
"Although it is not a bank's job to arrange such services, NRBC management has introduced these as part of its effort to fight Covid-19," Tamal added.
But as a small bank, NRBC has limited capacity to spend from its CSR fund. That is why the bank created an initial fund of Tk5 crore with contribution from bank directors, management, and a day's salary from its staff.
Under the medical service programme, NRBC has signed agreements with 11 private clinics in the divisional areas. Any NRBC staff or their relatives and bank clients can take general treatment services from these clinics at discounted rates.
"By dialing the helpline number 16413, the patients will get access to doctors. After taking primary suggestions, they can get admitted to the hospital if needed," said the bank's chairman.
The bank has provided such health services, including kidney dialysis, to various patients during this crisis, he added.
Tamal, who spent 32 years of his life in Russia, said the bank introduced medical services because as an expatriate, he had realised how poor health services in Bangladesh are.
He is an established businessman in the IT sector of Russia, where his business organisation OLDI is one of the five oldest firms.
Apart from health services, NRBC Bank has taken a set of measures to support its clients by providing low-cost loans amid the coronavirus crisis, he said.
The bank introduced a new product named "emergency plus" last month, under which loans ranging between Tk10,000 to Tk10 lakh are being given at 9 percent interest rate to affected businesses, he said.
The bank is also planning to introduce a new product for expatriates who have returned home. Under this product, they will be provided loans at less than 9 percent interest rate by June to support them during this financial crisis caused by job losses.
Beyond that, the bank will introduce a deposit scheme with health insurance in June in the wake of this health crisis, he said.
There is a practice abroad where a depositor gets certain health services under health insurance against their deposits. NRBC is planning to design a deposit scheme in line with this foreign practice from June 1.
He said there are three NRB (non-resident Bangladeshi) banks in Bangladesh and they are mandated to spend at least 10 percent of their profit on CSR activities. Following the CSR guideline issued by the Bangladesh Bank, NRBC has been spending its CSR funds from profit.
But during the severe crisis of Covid-19, banks should come forward and spend beyond what they have in the CSR funds, he said.
NRBC Bank started its journey in 2013. Its total deposits stood at Tk5,400 crore at the end of 2018, against which the size of the loan book was Tk4,800 crore, according to the bank's annual report. The bank has not published its annual performance report of 2019 yet.
The net profit of the bank in the year 2018 was Tk94 crore.