We need to learn the art of promoting strength of our nation and economy for the good of the people
Interview with Mr. Sirajuddin Aziz – CEO & President Habib Metropolitan Bank Ltd
Sirajuddin Aziz is a seasoned banker having extensive banking exposure with in Pakistan and abroad to this professional credit. He has worked for different organizations in Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, UK, Nigeria and UAE. He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Habib Metropolitan Bank. Prior to this, he has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Bank Alfalah from 2007-2011. By virtue of being a senior member of banks’ Management Teams/Committees, he has been actively involved in overseeing the entire spectrum of banking operations of various banks for over 15 years. Mr. Aziz is a Fellow of Institute of Bankers Pakistan and a Member of Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. He is a regular speaker at the Institute of Bankers Pakistan (IBP) and other prestigious education institutes and universities, where he speaks on a diverse range of subjects comprising Credit, Trade & Foreign Exchange, Code of Governance, Economy, professional etiquettes and personal development sessions. He also participates in televised discussions on finance & economy and speaks at professional forums on banking related subjects. Mr. Aziz is a regular contributor to national and international dailies, journals and magazines. He is a an author, with published works comprising ‘The Quest of Mirage’, ‘Saurab Ki Talaash Main’, ‘Bitter & Sweet’ and ‘The Essence of Islam’.
We have to learn the art of dealing with the world on the strength of our nation and our economy which would certainly provide tangible results. For example the recent visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Kuwait is the best example to represent our nation. In fact the recent visit to Kuwait by Prime Minister Pakistan can be described as milestone in our foreign relations. This was a business like visit, which was concluded within 48 hours but yielded great results. The Prime Minister told Kuwait that there is a ban on Pakistanis after second Gulf war, which should be done away with. And by the grace of Almighty Allah that ban has been removed immediately as a result of Prime Minister’s visit, which will be providing an opening for Pakistani workers to get jobs in Kuwait.
It was a great achievement for Pakistani workers both skilled manpower as well as for the labors. This was achieved by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he talked on the strength of the nation and the economy, said Sirajuddin Aziz in an interview.
PAGE: AS A SENIOR BANKER YOUR COMMENTS ON THE PROFITABILITY OF THE BANKING SECTOR IN THE PRESENT SCENARIO ESPECIALLY IN THE FACE OF LOW INTEREST RATE?
SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ: The low interest rate must have drastically affected the profitability of the banking sector because the spread of the banking sector being narrowed down yet it was surprising that despite a cut of 350bps points in the interest rate the banking sector was not adversely affected as in 2016 the overall profitability of the banking sector was around Rs175-180 billion.
PAGE: DO YOU SEE THAT BANKS HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THE ECONOMIC GROWTH ESPECIALLY AS A MAJOR CHUNK OF THE BANKING SECTOR LIQUIDITY WAS BEING INVESTED IN THE GOVERNMENT PAPERS, BONDS ETC?
SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ: Generally speaking the banks play an intermediary role the financial sector lends funding to the feasible projects and reliable entrepreneurs. In the present scenario when the interest rates are at around 40 year low, which has drastically narrowed down the spread of the banking sector.
In fact due to save and secure lending to the government the bankers had forget the art of lending. However the situation is taking a turn because of slashed yield from the government bonds and papers and increasing demand of the private sector loans which can be described as a silver lining for the financial sector as lending to the private sector projects should be the first choice of the banking sector to play an effective role in building up the economy.
Earlier the bankers were heavily relying on investing in government papers which in a way was being described as crowding out the private sector because of heavy borrowing by the government. For the bankers while lending to the private sector the first priority is the ensure quality of lending to avoid risk of default or infected portfolios.
PAGE: AT PRESENT THE CPEC HAS BECOME THE TALK OF THE TOWN, AND A SERIES OF PROJECTS ESPECIALLY POWER PROJECTS, WAREHOUSES AND SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES ARE COMING UP, DO YOU THINK THERE MAY BE ANY RISK OF LENDING TO THESE PROJECTS?
SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ: As far as CPEC projects are concerned it is rightly said that this huge project worth over $54 billion will be a game change for Pakistan economy, it is good for the country as well as for the people of Pakistan and for other countries in the region. As far as lending is concern there is always a risk to financial lending, which calls for ensuring the quality and integrity of the entrepreneurs before partnering in any project.
PAGE: YOUR COMMENTS ON THE OUTLOOK OF CPEC PROJECTS AND ITS TRICKLE DOWN EFFECTS ON OUR ECONOMY?
SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ: As far as CPEC it should a boon for economic health of the country, however, we should talk our counterpart as a nation as how our products, workforce and services and other supplies are getting a chance to participate in this projects. This project can really give a quantum jump to the economy provided we learn the art of dealing with our counterpart as a nation. We have to look at the manufacturing sector, products, supplies and services and manpower whether they were given a due share in this project however we are pinning hopes that this will happen. Actually this project is not a time bond project it will go a long way to have a positive effect in the years to come.
PAGE: WOULD YOU LIKE TO COMMENT ON THE RECENTLY CONCLUDED ECO-SUMMIT AND PAKISTAN’S ROLE IN HOSTING THIS IMPORTANT CONFERENCE.
SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ: As a matter of fact the ECO-Summit has sent a message around the world that Pakistan is an important country and not isolated diplomatically as being propagated by anti Pakistan forces.
The participation of around ten heads of the ECO member states can be taken as a significant position of Pakistan as all of the member states and other countries of the region have expressed their willingness to join this project. Hence we are not isolated at all as we are engaged with all of our neighboring countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and the Central Asian states and hopefully this conference not only has sounded a note that Pakistan is well connected with the regional countries and this can be called as a big achievement on the part of Pakistan. It is expected that as a result of this summit the regional bilateral trade will be strengthened in near future.