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[ 07-04-2014 ]
Plenty of opportunities for SMEs in Sarawak, says Alliance Bank

KUCHING: Sarawak remains a strong and vibrant state with plenty of opportunities especially with the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and commercial sector that has seen much activity recently.

Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd (Alliance Bank) executive vice president and head of group business banking Steve Miller shared that they made a big move this year as a bank to start investing a lot more in Sarawak.

“One of the major things we did last year was to invest in a new branch – so we opened a new branch in Bintulu.

“We currently have representation in Sibu, Miri, Bintulu and a few branches in Kuching,” he said in an exclusive interview yesterday.

“We are happy with our footprint in terms of major cities and we feel that we have good coverage,” he highlighted.

Miller went on to explain one of the main reasons why they felt confident to add a branch and invest in more people here was they were now running Sarawak independently as its own region now, rather than being run jointly with Sabah.

He added the main reason behind that confidence was the fact that they really liked the business scenery here, with the vibrant SME and commercial sector.

“As a bank, we’ve always felt that the SME and small commercial space is the area that we like to focus on,” Miller emphasised.

Going back to Bintulu, he noted that there are some major projects that are happening such as the Bakun Dam, the expansion of the port and so on.

Alliance Bank recognises a whole host of SMEs required to support that growth and those of larger industries.

“It was a branch that we set up that was very focused on business where normally a branch is open for the consumer side.

“This is one of our first branches that we really wanted to drive the small business angle to it,” he explained.

With the Bintulu branch having been open for 10 months now, Miller indicated that typically for a branch, they are looking for a breakeven payoff within the first couple of years.

As of the third quarter, Miller concluded that the so far this year, Malaysian SMEs were growing above market average for loan growth and expects to have a strong finish to the year.

Specifically for Sarawak, it is one of Alliance Bank’s smaller regions, in terms of not just branch size but also loan size.

Due to the small base of loans and customers, they are always expecting very large growth rates.

“As such, the bank’s growth rates here are always going to be substantially higher than others because they need to catch up with the other regions,” Miller explained.

With that, Miller is confident that Alliance Bank will most likely have a strong finish this year not just because of the new branches such as Bintulu, but also other areas such as Miri and
Sibu.


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