83 years and counting, BMC Bank plans to conquer new frontiers

S A H Rizvi

As the iconic Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Bank celebrates 83 years of its foundation this month, the bank plans a slew of new initiatives to expand its operations and make it a major player in the competitive financial market.

“We have our blueprint ready to foray into the insurance sector with total digitization of our banking services, innovative customer value propositions and out of box solutions,” says bank Chairman Zeeshan Mehdi.

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Mr. Mehdi said his prime focus is to tap the insurance sector, in the general insurance, life insurance and health insurance segments, with a customer-centric approach. “We are in touch with various corporate in the insurance industry to collaborate with and carve out an innovative approach to become a significant player in the insurance sector“.

Zeeshan Mehdi

“Banking at your fingertips will be our motto”, Mr. Mehdi pointed out as he unveiled his plans for complete digitization of the banking services. “We are creating a new vertical for fully digitized services, right from digital on boarding of customers and e-KYC to mobile banking. We will minimise paper work “

The bank also plans to install dedicated ATM kiosks, cash dispensers and offer 24 hours customer care services.

It is to the credit of the timely measures adopted by the management; the bank braved the two spells of the pandemic and earned profits in its operations.” We have seen how severely the pandemic affected the banking sector. We could wade through the difficult period by deft planning, optimum utilization of our resources and dedication of our staff under testing times,” Mr. Mehdi added.

“We have registered profit in our operations in this two successive years and that enabled us to get clearances from the RBI to further expand our operations,” said Mr. Mehdi.

Now 53, Mr. Mehdi took over as the Chairman of the Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank in 2016, at a very difficult time in the history of the Bank. “The Bank then had a very low CRAR (Capital-to-Risk weighted Assets Ratio) and a high NPA as a result of which the regulators had imposed several restrictions, giving the bank a very small window to operate.”

Undaunted by the challenges, the new Chairman began to unveil his plan, by first organizing a mega event ‘ Digital India Summit’ in Mumbai in 2016, which was inaugurated by Mr. Arjun Ram Meghwal, the then Union Minister of State for Finance and Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and Mr. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Minister for Minority Affairs, as Chief Guest.

The summit hit the bull’s eye.

Not only, it invigorated the bank’s staff but also convinced its stakeholders and customers the bank is finally in safe hands. The magic began to unfold.

“With the summit, we gave a clear message that the Bank is set to modernize its operations and undergo a digital transformation to arrest the downward slide” he said.

Besides streamlining the Board, Mr. Mehdi drafted top banking brains, chartered accountants and communication experts. “We are the first bank to constitute a Board of Management as mandated b y RBI to further augment our operations,” he added.

“I am so happy that today our CRAR has risen to a comfortable level of over 17% and our NPA has come down to 2% from the double-digit figure earlier” averred the Chairman.

Mr. Mehdi said he sees a perceptible change “as most of our old customers are coming back with renewed trust and are now confident the bank is poised for a a quantum leap. “ This reposing of confidence and faith has further energized us,”

Driven by the commitment and concern to uplift the poor and the downtrodden, a great visionary Shaikh Mohammedally Allabaux, the founder Chairman, established the bank as a Co-operative Credit Society in 1939, with a paltry capital of Rs.10,500/-, along with Padma Shri Zain G. Rangoonwala. Their aim was to help petty traders who were exploited by the money- lenders.

With the humble beginnings in 1939, it became a full-fledged Urban Co-operative Bank two years later and in 1949 it was renamed as the Bombay Mercantile Cooperative Bank. The bank remained committed to its policy of helping petty businesspersons, vegetable vendors, taxi drivers, small shopkeepers, skilled craftsmen and other weaker sections of the society and in due course it became the largest Co-operative Bank in Asia.

The Chairman said that the bank would continue to emulate the vision of its founding fathers, with which it has successfully covered its journey of 83 long years.

“My vision is to bring back the pristine glory of the Bank and make it the top co-operative banks in the country once again,” he added.

It is not that 83 years of the bank’s existence has been a cozy journey. There were grave periods of trials, many difficulties, but its strong foundations, goodwill and ideals helped the bank to stay afloat.

The bank has a presence in 10 states, with 52 branches.

“We have plans for a pan India operation by adding new branches in due course of time”, concluded Mr. Mehdi.

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