Remittance drives banks to open exchange houses abroad | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, August 12, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, August 12, 2009

Remittance drives banks to open exchange houses abroad


Private commercial banks (PCBs) are scrambling to open exchange houses abroad to cash in on increasing business driven by inward remittances, officials said.
At least half a dozen banks sought permission from Bangladesh Bank to open nearly 10 exchange houses in remittance destinations, such as Canada, Italy, Singapore and the UK, central bank officials said.
Currently, eight local banks -- including the state-owned four -- have 28 exchange houses abroad, BB data shows.
“Exchange houses will help rout more remittances through the banking channel,” said Shah Alam Sarwar, managing director of Premier Bank that has sought to open exchange houses in Singapore and the UK.
Bangladesh received $9.67 billion in remittance in fiscal 2008-09 despite the recession that hit many countries. The World Bank has projected that Bangladesh's inward remittances for the current fiscal year may reach $11 billion.
Bankers and experts believe a huge amount of remittance is flowing through an informal channel popularly known as hundi for its faster and cost-effective services.
The central bank encourages banks to open their own exchange houses in foreign countries to send in more remittances through the banking channel. The BB has also allowed the banks to team up with local nongovernmental organisations to fast-track services to remittance beneficiaries.
“As part of the move, the BB is a bit more flexible than before in allowing banks to open exchange houses,” said a BB official, asking not to be named.
Earlier, state-owned banks had the monopoly in opening exchange houses. The PCBs had to rely on drawing arrangements (DA) with exchange houses abroad.
Currently, 40 banks have over 800 DAs with 280 exchange houses in different countries, but the BB official said DAs alone cannot boost the flow of inward remittances.
“If a bank has its own exchange house it gives remitters a morale boost,” said Shah Alam Sarwar of Premier Bank.
PCBs which have applied to the central bank to open their own exchange houses are: First Security Islamic Bank for Canada and Italy, Prime Bank for the UK, Premier for Singapore and the UK, and EXIM Bank.
EXIM has applied to open a number of exchange houses in different countries, the BB official said without disclosing the numbers and countries.
“Bangladeshi banks have no exchange houses in Korea, Japan, Australia and some East European countries due to strict regulations there,” said the BB official.
sajjad@thedailystar.net

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