Banks unveils package of measures to help SMEs
In an effort to support Malaysia’s smaller companies that are vital for the economy, Bank Islam Malaysia has unveiled a raft of initiatives aimed at supporting the country’s SMEs.
A range of programmes has been put together by the bank as part of its five-year business strategic plan known as LEAP25.
The measures are targeted at SMEs manufacturing firms, vendor associations, women entrepreneurs and professional services, although not exclusively.
According to Mizan Masram, Bank Islam Group Chief Business Officer – Retail, the bank has targeted support for SME companies using a variety of strategies.
He said: “Firstly, we’ve established new SME hubs to [a total of] 16 hubs across the region, including in major towns such as Sri Petaling, George Town, Sungai Petani, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. We have also increased the number of our SME relationship managers to build stronger connections with current and potential customers.
“Secondly, we have formed new collaborations with government bodies, private companies and business associations such as the Halal Development Corporation (HDC), Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), SME Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp Malaysia) and Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).
“This is to provide Islamic banking solutions to SMEs, whilst spreading awareness that these solutions are not only for Muslim-owned businesses, but for all Malaysians.”
Packages to help Covid-hit firms
Bank Islam is also targeting support at smaller client companies that have been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and restrictions, to help them thrive both domestically and abroad.
As part of LEAP25, the bank is facilitating collaboration between firms to help knowledge sharing, best practice and shariah-compliant SME financing. This includes online engagement through virtual meetings and webinars.
Some of the products offered by Bank Islam to support the development of SMEs are:
SME Biz G.R.O.W Financing Programme: Providing finance for business owners, to help them upscale and grow their businesses.
WinBiz Financing: The Women in Business Financing Programme (WinBiz) is designed for female Malaysian SME entrepreneurs, to provide them with easy access to working capital and expenses.
Mizan said: “In recognising the vital role of women and their impact on the nation’s well-being, Bank Islam has introduced the WinBiz financing programme as our commitment in championing the efforts of women entrepreneurs.”
SME exporter financing: This will provide financing for MATRADE members to support them with their export efforts. Mizan said the bank is partnering with MATRADE to launch an SME Exporter Financing Programme, with a fund of RM100 million ($23 million) to support SMEs registered as MATRADE members with financing their export activities.
Bank Islam also partners with SME Corp Malaysia to jointly facilitate the implementation of development programmes, financial support and guidance for SMEs across all related ministries and agencies.
Digitalisation is key
Mizan said that digitalisation is one of the key investments that a business should be making, adding that the bank’s mobile app, SMExpert, was created to help SMES grow their businesses.
The bank has also created a mobile application called GO Biz, that enables merchants or sellers to manage their day-to-day business quickly and securely from their mobile devices.
“In the last couple of years, Bank Islam has invested millions in digital-enabling infrastructure to facilitate its venture into the digital banking sector.
“The bank will be embarking on the second phase of our technology innovation investment to further enhance the digital banking offerings to the customers,” said Mizan.
According to Mizan, digital and technological advancements have opened new markets both at home and internationally, creating more business opportunities for SMEs to explore.
He said that, through its SME banking division, the bank will be introducing even more initiatives to meet their ever-changing needs at every stage of business growth.
“To support the growing needs of SMEs in this time of change, we plan to introduce more SME financing products and provide holistic and shariah-compliant financial solutions to our customers, including wealth management and takaful [insurance],” said Mizan.