SME Bank’s role will be enhanced, says new CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: Pushing small medium enterprises (SMEs) to strive further and enhancing SME Bank Malaysia Bhd’s role in providing financial assistance to targeted businesses are the main goals of its newly-appointed chief executive officer Aria Putera Ismail.

SME Bank CEO Aria Putera Ismail.

He said the three pillars in managing the bank were human capital, products and programmes as well as portfolio and policy.

“We are looking at improving the asset quality as well as improving our talent. We want to push SMEs to strive further as they serve as the country’s backbone,” he told Bernama.

Aria said although the bank did not give out any grants for SME entrepreneurs, it provided financing and other services such as entrepreneur development programmes and entrepreneur premises.

SME Bank had approved more than RM29 billion to nurture and finance more than 16,000 SMEs since 2005.

In the future, Aria said, the bank would undertake high impact initiatives to provide customised solutions for SMEs through the development of comprehensive financing programmes such as the Ecosystem Financing Programme and Umbrella Financing Programme.

“Ecosystem Financing Programme is vital for the development of SMEs as it is crucial in ensuring a balanced growth and shared prosperity as the country embarked on its transition into a high value-added, high-income economy,” he said.

Aria said the bank was also eager to expand further into high-impact sectors like green industries and digital technology while collaborating with other commercial banks via syndication deals and the introduction of e-wallet and SME marketplace.

As of now, the bank has listed 21 initiatives including major steps into digital technology transformation, strategies for SMEs’ development based on the ever-changing and challenging economic environment, as well as communications technology, in line with the government’s desire for IR4.0.

“This includes creating an ecosystem which would not only benefit the bank in assessing credit quality but also monitor the performance and allow SME players to look at new opportunities within the digital ecosystem that we will be venturing into,” he said.

Today, SME Bank stands out as the only Malaysian development financial institution that has established the Centre for Entrepreneur Development and Research (CEDAR), a wholly owned subsidiary, that provides a variety of intervention services that include research-based training, business coaching, function-based facilitation and entrepreneur mentoring.

“These tailor-made intervention services are crucial since over the years we discovered that although SMEs are highly motivated, they are lacking in basic fundamental knowledge and skills in managing and sustaining their businesses, for example, in financial management and marketing and branding,” Aria said.

SME Bank has also launched several new financing programmes such as MySMExport, a financing programme for exporters and potential exporters to not only purchase new fixed assets but also for working capital.

MySMELady was officiated by the Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on Oct 8 to encourage the involvement of women entrepreneurs. It focuses on upward migration, business expansion and growth.

It also has a financing programme in collaboration with the Empowering Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit to provide financing to Bumiputera companies if there is a shortfall in project and plant or machinery cost.

“With these initiatives in place, SMEs will be deemed to be more competitive in the global market in the near future. This will be a push for e-commerce players,” he added.