The Sonali Bank has been the largest commercial bank in Bangladesh over the last four decades and still remains top in the list of banks in the country. It has a glorious history behind that has led it to become the most leading and largest commercial bank in Bangladesh.
Soon after the independence of Bangladesh, the government took the policy of nationalization for the rapid and broad-based socio-economic development of the newborn country to keep pace with the development trend of the then age. As a part of the government policy, the banking sector was like others brought under the policy of nationalization.
Accordingly, Sonali Bank was established through merging all the branches of the National Bank of Pakistan, the Premier Bank and the Bank of Bhawalpur that were existed in the part of East Pakistan by the Presidential Order No. 26 of 1972. As a result, Sonali Bank got the opportunity to serve the people with 265 branches that privileged it to be the most dominant banking force in the country since its beginning. Alongside this, it was also appointed as the sole agent of the Bangladesh Bank to perform the special responsibilities of the Government of Bangladesh. This has been a milestone for the Sonali Bank to hold the top position.
In 2007, the government decided to shift the existing NCBs from state-owned financial institutions to commercial banking companies. So, Sonali Bank like other NCBs was incorporated as a public limited company on 3rd of June 2007 under Companies Act 1994. Thus it took the form from Sonali Bamk to Sonali Bank Limited (SBL). Accordingly, SBL took over the business of the then Sonali Bank with all its assets, liabilities, right, power, privileges and obligations through a vendor’s agreement signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the Sonali Bank Limited on the 15th of November 2007 with the retrospective effect from the 1st of July 2007. And all of its operational activities are now governed by the Bank Companies Act 1991. This has opened up a new opportunity for the bank to involve in corporate partnership with other members in the banking sector of the country and to take decision in policy matters freely.
Presently the Bank has set the institutional network of 1203 branches covering the areas from the capital to the grass-root levels across the country, out of those 859 branches are operating in the rural areas, the largest in number among all the banks operating in Bangladesh.
SBL has one full-fledged bank named Sonali Bank (UK) Limited in the UK under joint ownership with the Government of Bangladeh, which is operating six branches in UK. SBLalso has two more subsidiary companies, one in Bangladesh named Sonali Investment Limited, operating merchant banking with 4 branches in Dhaka.and the other in USA named Sonali Excahange Company Incorporated, operating 9 branches in USA.
Besides, SBL has a joint venture company named Sonali Polaris Technology Limited with globally renowned financial technology provider Polaris Financial Limited to implement core banking; and own representative offices at Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudia Arabia and in Kuwait. It has remittance business with 55 banks and exchange houses in different countries of the world and conducts foreign exchange business through 45 AD branches of the bank and 617 foreign correspondents across the country. With this vast network of the bank, presently over 23000 employees including officers and staff of the bank are serving the people of all walks of life at home and abroad.
Currently, the authorized and paid-up capitals of SBL are respectively turned to Tk 2000 crores and Tk 1125 crores. The bank has set targets to increase present deposit volume from Tk. 59929.37 crores to Tk 64300 crores and advance from Tk 37814.71 crores to Tk 42500 crores. SBL has also introduced modern technologies to fulfil the requirement of the age and modern banking. Out of 1203 branches, 1181 branches have already been computerized and the rest are also under process. Besides, it has introduced SMS banking, mobile banking, ATM and Co-Branded booths, ATM cards, Debit and Credit cards, etc. And for its outstanding performances in different services and successes, SBL has been awarded a number of prizes by many local and international organizations.
It is also a genuine fact that today the banking sector has ushered in a new era in Bangladesh and it has been possible because of the contributions of our competent bankers who have been working with the large number of private banks side by side the NCBs. And it is also a genuine fact that a mentionable number of all those first generation bankers are the products of NCBs, especially a big number of them come from Sonali Bank. This is also a contribution that the Sonali Bank has made in the banking sector.
Though the Sonali Bank was privileged in the formative stage, but by dint of its own capable management and taking timely initiatives, gradually it has been able to compose a glorious chapter in the banking history of Bangladesh. Its contribution to the growth and expansion of the country’s trade, commerce, industry, agriculture, export, import, social and service sectors and sub-sectors is unparallel. Though it is a commercial bank, but its spirit is, of course, different from that of the other commercial banks of the country.
Its main objective as a bank of the mass-people is to reach the banking services to the doorstep of the people across the country and to fulfil the omni banking needs to boost up the national economy of Bangladesh. Keeping its that objective in spirit, the Bank has already established a vast network of operational activities through its large number of branches covering every nook and corner in Bangladesh, so that no one of the 150 millions of people of the country remains out of touch of the services of Sonali Bank.
We all know that Bangladesh is an overpopulated country; and among many of its multifarious socioeconomic, political, disastrous and other problems, chronic unemployment problem and poverty have become a serious concern to the sustenance of the national development. In order to resolve the country’s unemployment problem and to alleviate the countrywide poverty, the Sonahi Bank has been extending low interest rate rural and micro-credit without any collateral security to the huge number of male and female for crop production, irrigation, diary farm, poultry farm, goat rearing, fisheries, shrimps, forestry, self-employment generation activities, small and medium enterprises all around the country for a long time. This is another milestone of the Sonali Bank.
Its huge financing in expanding trade, commerce, export oriented garment sector, knitting sector, dying and finishing, backward linkage industry, engineering, food processing, information technology, industrial sector including agro-based and welfare based industries, agriculture sector, social and service sectors has made country’s economy successful. It can be said that there remains no area or sector where there is no touch of the Sonahi Bank to grow. It has also very recently introduced few special deposit schemes like Millionaire Scheme, TBS for NRBs, DBS, SDS of five years, EDS of 10 years in encouraging the saving habit of the common people living all around the country.
Apart from the general banking activities, Sonali Bank also provides a huge number of welfare services like the payment of salary and allowances of all the govermnent employees all over the country; performing government’s treasury functions on behalf of the central bank; rendering services as clearing house on behalf of the central bank; receipt of the bills of utility services like water, electricity, gas and telephone; payment of allowances to the old-age, widows, distressed women and distressed freedom fighters’ honorarium; payment of pension bills of army and civil personnel all over the country; payment of salary and allowances of non-government schoolteachers and employees; payment of primary education stipends to the students; payment of salary and allowances of the government primary schoolteachers. Moreover, to attract the non-resident Bangladeshis, it also provides a number of lucrative schemes for them. So, this is to say in a word what Sonali Bank does not do, it does all.
In sprite of’ its providing all these beneficial services to the nation as well as keeping notable contribution to the overall socio-economic development of Bangladesh, it is true that Sonali Bank also has a heavy amount of outstanding loans to the defaulters of different categories that need to be recovered soon to reduce the heavy burden of liabilities of Tk 73155.97 of SBL. The bank not only has fallen into financial crisis or damaged its hard-earned goodwill due to recent dangerous loan scams of Hallmark Group and others but also has fallen into deep image crisis. Despite its suffering from these huge outstanding loans, liabilities and image crisis, Sonali Bank still has total assets of Tk. 75394.97 crores and it has earned operating profit in the financial year 2013 is Tk. 318.41 crores. Of course, this is a good sign that the bank is forging ahead.
In the end, we would say, realizing all the bitter and better experiences of the past, the management team of the SBL under the leadership of the present board of directors should work effectively to bring in a new dynamism into the overall activities of the bank to get its lost glory back and to rebuild a new image of SBL at home and abroad. Let us all hope, through the continued efforts of SBL authorities and the government, Sonali Bank must make a new image soon.