Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Mohammed Aftab Manzoor, President, Muslim Commercial Bank

Jan 21 - 27, 2002

Perpetuating enhanced level of value addition, for all the stakeholders, is the basis of the long-term strategic focus of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB). A number of initiatives have been taken to ensure sustained growth in profit. Competitively priced products have been introduced to widen customer base. Efforts are being made to ensure prudent decision making as well as optimize intermediation cost. Our efforts have been recognized by renowned financial magazine 'Euromoney'. MCB was declared the 'Best Bank in Pakistan' for the year 2001. This recognition has come in succession of year 2000 award for 'Best Domestic Bank of Pakistan'.

The management and staff of MCB are proud of this recognition but our real asset is thousands of satisfied clients who consider us a bankable bank. Established over fifty years ago, MCB is considered to be the largest domestic commercial bank having a paid up capital of over Rs 2.4 billion. It has a network of over 1200 branches, including nearly 650 automated and 170 on-line branches, in Pakistan and establishments in Sri Lanka and Bahrain. With products such as Rupee Travellers Cheques, ATMs, Mobile Banking, various asset and liability products, our emphasis remains on customer service. We are striving hard to meet customer's expectations and want to be the preferred provider of financial services.

Before commenting on the performance of MCB, I would like to say a few words about the economic scenario in general and fundamentals for commercial banks in particular. While the central bank has been trying hard to restructure the financial sector, some external and exogenous factors have kept commercial banks under pressure, from freezing of foreign currency accounts to war in Afghanistan. Despite adverse conditions, MCB posted Rs 2.48 billion operating profit for the year 2000. This was 58 per cent higher than profit for the year 1999. During first half of year 2001, MCB recorded over a 62 per cent increase in profit before tax as compared to the corresponding period of last year. An interim dividend of 12.5 per cent has been paid for the year ending December 31, 2001.

The three 'Business Groups', established in year 2000, have been fine-tuned to ensure a more focused approach in managing the diversified customer segments. These Groups are: Commercial Banking Group, Corporate and Investment Banking Group and Consumer Banking Group. MCB has also created Corporate and Islamic Banking Group in November last year. The first Morabaha facility, Sharia compliant and duly approved by the Sharia Advisors, was extended subsequent to opening of L/C for import of a 57,376 tonnes vessel for breaking at Gaddani.

As stated earlier, our mission is to meet customers' expectations. We have an extensive branch network throughout the country. The branch break-up province wise is, Punjab (57%), Sindh (21%), NWFP (19%) and Balochistan (3%). The Bank provides 24 hours banking convenience with the largest ATM network located in 15 cities of Pakistan. The bank's Rupee Traveller cheques have been market leaders for many years.

Commercial banking activities are no longer confined to four walls. Realizing the paradigm shift MCB has been investing heavily intechnology. With over 104 ATMs and 170 on-line branches, MCB can rightly claim to be the industry leader with connectivity extended to 12 cities. ATMs not only serve as 24-hours cash convenience but also improve on the counter services and turn around time at cash counters.

The MCB ATM Mastercard with Maestro and Cirrus networks has become a global service furthering the convenience to its customers. Travelling customers can access their account from a large number of internationally deployed ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) units. The MCB ATM Switch-MNET is now operational. The Bank has been able to create the largest network for secure electronic financial transactions in Pakistan. Local branches of some foreign banks have been connected to this network. This enables participating banks to use each other's ATMs resulting in an increased convenience to MCB customers and customers of other banks.

Another important focus, in achieving our goal to create value, is improving human resource. The Bank continues to improve its HR policies to make it the best place to work, in line with its core values. MCB is well positioned and flexible to operate effectively in the changing scenario. We are committed to broaden our customer base, harnessing the strength of the MCB brand, and provide value based propositions to our customers.