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21 September 2006

Baiduri Bank today announced the launch of a new programme designed to provide assistance and support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Brunei.

The launch ceremony, attended by about 200 members from various chambers of commerce, business associations, SMEs as well as senior officials from the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources (MIPR), BEDB, BINA and other government agencies was held at the Rizqun International Hotel, Gadong. Yang Mulia Dato Paduka Awang Haji Hamdilah bin Haji Abd. Wahab, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, was the guest of honour at the official event.

SMEs are a key driver of the Brunei economy. According to official statistics in 2002, out of a total of 6,817 companies established in the country, 97% are SMEs, with the majority operating in wholesale and retail, construction, mining and manufacturing sectors. They employ around 60% of Brunei's workforce and play a strategic role in the overall economic growth and diversification of the economy.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Mr Pierre Imhof, General Manager of Baiduri Bank said, “As a local bank with foreign expertise, Baiduri Bank is a reliable banking partner who understands the financial needs of the SMEs. We firmly believe that, by launching this programme, we would provide a platform opening up immense opportunities for SMEs to tap on. Such optimism is also taking into account the efforts being undertaken by various government agencies to diversify business activities in support of investments and projects promoted by the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.

“SMEs must focus not only on enhancing their business skills but also to be transparent in their business activities in terms of proper conduct of account, good management, procedures and controls. In other words, to cultivate and uphold good financial discipline.

“Through this Programme, we also hope to inculcate prudent business management practices among local entrepreneurs, to help enhance their competitiveness through efficiency, productivity and capability development,” said Mr Imhof.

Baiduri Bank is not a new entrant to the SME sector. The Bank has served this segment successfully over the past few years by offering products and services such as payment cards, mortgages, deposit taking, lending, trade finance, cash management and foreign exchange through its retail banking, corporate banking and trade services departments. The Bank has also been actively participating in government initiatives aimed at financing the SMEs, such as the Working Capital Credit Fund established by the Brunei Darussalam Economic Council (BDEC); the Enterprise Facilitation Scheme and Micro-Credit Financing Scheme, both of which were launched by the MIPR.

The new Baiduri SME Programme is a structured programme aimed at widening the scope of assistance to entrepreneurs. A number of financing options are available under this Programme: SME Working Capital Financing, SME Instalment Loan, SME Account Receivables Financing, SME Indent Financing and SME Property Financing.

In addition to providing financing for working capital needs and business expansion, the Bank also offers a range of value-added services that encompass the following:

*Comprehensive suite of banking services tailored to the needs of individual businesses, including Business Credit Cards, card merchant services, internet payment gateway for e-commerce merchants, commercial vehicle financing or leasing, trade services, remittances, treasury services, payroll processing, internet banking and wealth management;

*Business Consultancy Services provided by financial professionals to help SME customers improve their financial competencies;

*Business Development Services through networking, information-sharing and business development training to heighten awareness in areas such as financial management, process improvement, adoption of technology, in order to strengthen the business capabilities of SMEs.

Such an incubating approach provides the much needed guidance and mentoring which small businesses often lack. The Bank also hopes to offer business support services by leveraging on its network of corporate vendors to secure preferred pricing for SME customers for office essentials such as printing, stationeries, telecommunication services, insurance and office equipment, thus helping them to achieve cost savings.

Mr Imhof added: “As reflected in our brand promise, we strive to fulfil the banking needs of individuals as well as businesses. Baiduri Bank aims to be the leading financial institution in SME banking and to this end, we are constantly exploring new ways of helping our enterprising customers grow.

“The Baiduri SME Programme reinforces our commitment to develop and nurture SMEs. We hope that our SME customers would grow to become well-established corporates with the capabilities to compete locally and even internationally, and that we will have the privilege of offering them a more diverse range of banking facilities to meet their increasingly sophisticated financial needs.”

For easy accessibility, services under the Baiduri SME Programme are available across the Bank’s entire branch network. Interested SME customers are invited to visit the nearest Baiduri Bank branch for a complimentary consultation.

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