FIRST WOMEN BANK LTD.
Leading women to play an active role in the economic scenario
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
July 29 - Aug 04, 2002
The First Women Bank Limited (FWBL) is a unique, specialized financial institution, a Commercial Bank and a Development Financial Institution, run and managed by the women, to augment the economic status of women in the society by offering the best financial services.
FWBL with a firm commitment to bring prosperity to the women folk with special focus on the rural areas is striving with the vision to be the lead bank for women of Pakistan.
The mission of the bank is to promote economic prosperity and self-reliance in women by transforming their role from passive participants to active partners in the economic development of the country.
The role of the First Women Bank Limited is crucial in the backdrop of the Government's plans for poverty alleviation. The emphasis on poverty alleviation and empowerment of women is being implemented through concerted efforts to increase access to credit for income generation, and giving impetus to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as an engine for growth. First Women Bank is playing a major role in these two areas, with a special focus on women.
The present regime decided in March 2001 that the First Women Bank Ltd would not be privatized. Earlier the previous government had placed the bank on the disposal of the Privatization Commission to present in the market for sale. Under the changed leadership and new management of the Bank, the management set new directions, with the following three pronged strategy
IMPROVED MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
FOCUS ON WOMEN DEVELOPMENT
In certain ways, the concurrent activities create cross-purposes, as one kind seeks to essentially focus on areas to augment in mercantile objectives of the Commercial bank, while the other seeks to attain special objectives, primarily to cater to women at all levels of economic activity.
The year 2001 was the year of turn-around for the Bank. Significant growth recorded in all financial activities, despite tight economic conditions and tough market conditions fully demonstrated the commercial viability and competence of the bank leadership to make sustained growth.
Despite almost doubled from Rs3.4 billion to Rs6.2 billion (growth of 85.3 per cent); Advances enhanced from Rs604 million to Rs833 million (growth of 37.9 per cent) and net profit before tax increased from Rs26 million to Rs115 million (reflecting growth of 342 per cent), certainly a quantum jump.
The bank also accomplished highest results in all key components over the last 12 years. Shareholders equity of Rs110 million increased to Rs350 million; accumulated loss of Rs139 million as of December 31, 2000 was reduced to Rs58 million on December 31, 2001.
Professional management and tight financial discipline put the negative factors into reversed gear reflected in the recoveries of Rs43 million during 2001 as against Rs16 million during the previous year which constitutes 33 per cent of the non-performing loans.
The year 2002 is expected to be more challenging than the year 2001 particularly for the banking industry primarily due to lower spreads, reduced demand for credit and enhanced market risks.
However, the First Women Bank is geared to maintain its sustainable growth and at the same time improve advances/deposits ratio by significantly increasing lending portfolio through prudent disbursements with focus on market niche — the women sector.
The strategic direction for the year 2002 aims at consolidation and strengthening through financial and organizational restructuring. New divisions and departments are being established such as, Finance & Planning Division, Corporate Credit Division and Small & Medium Enterprises, Credit Division & Micro Credit Division for which related infrastructure is being reinforced. Professionally qualified experts have been hired to strengthen various divisions and departments. A Credit Monitoring Cell will also be established soon. Financial Services Desk is also being established to identify, support, development and empower women, by providing Corporate Credit, Trade Finance, Legal and Tax consultancy services. Special credit products to cater to the specific needs of women are being developed. Ambitious targets have also been allocated for attracting female account holders and women borrowers.
The bank with a focus to strengthen the women business activities intends to upgrade three business centers, which offer comprehensive package for women enterprise development. Two additional business centers will also be set up during current year.
A new direction of First Women Bank is strategic alliances with international agencies for skill development of women and capacity building of women entrepreneur. The bank intends to collaborate with ILO/IPEC International Program for Elimination of Child Labor by Identification of viable income generating projects and disbursement of small loans.
The bank envisages collaboration with SMEDA for project identification; Project Evaluation; Accounting, Legal and Marketing Services for identified customers and joint marketing campaign for SME loans.