Solomon Islands' new bank has 'resounding' response
Thousands of Solomon Islanders join new Solomon Islands bank which boasts universal access to financial services and low interest rates.
The Solomon Islands' newest commercial bank, Pan Oceanic Bank, says it's had a resounding response with more than 5000 accounts opened in its first two months.
The Chief Executive, Nihal Kekulawala, says the locally incorporated bank boasts the country's lowest interest rates, and unlike other banks, grants loans to both wage earning and self-employed Solomon Islanders.
He spoke to Koroi Hawkins.
NIHAL KELUWALA: Well let me put it this way, at the moment we have something like five thousand customers, these are basically grassroots people who are having savings accounts, we have five thousand people who have opened savings accounts in the bank. When it comes to loans the way I look at it is our interest rate is somewhat less when it comes to borrowing you see so the customer pays a lower interest. I mean we have different interest rates for different products so I think that could be one of the reasons. And basically because its a locally incorporated bank maybe the Solomon Islanders feel okay this bank is our bank so maybe that's why the locals are coming to this bank. And when we are giving loans we have to make sure that this customer has the repayment capacity even though it maybe against the provident fund balance but we'll have to make sure that this customer can repay, he can live, he can service the loan and we make sure that he is either self-employed. I mean we are more than happy to entertain paid employees who have an income fixed salary. But sometimes we get self-employed Solomon Islanders also so we don't want to discriminate against them so we entertain across the board anybody who walks through our doors but at the same time we make sure they satisfy our criteria for lending.
KOROI HAWKINS: In terms of your correspondent relationships with overseas banks I understand you were working on setting that up?
NK: We have established correspondent banking relationships in Australian dollars, in New Zealand dollars. In the Pacific region it has been so easy because people in the Pacific region or the banks in the Pacific know Solomon Islands. What we haven't got is the US dollar correspondent bank which has to be with a bank which has a clearing bank in New York. There are a couple of banks who have indicated to us, so to say green light, but I cant tell you until the account is opened, I don't want to say that because that account has not been opened. Maybe as early as next week we will be able to open a US dollar correspondent banking relationship.
KH: I understand one of the reasons for the opening of the Pan Oceanic Bank is also to help the logging companies who have been shut out of banks like the ANZ and Westpac and others have you managed to secure that clientele?
NK: Yes some of them have already opened accounts with us and obviously we will be facilitating their trades because from the countries' point of view there has to be a bank that will facilitate them. Otherwise what is going to happen to this industry? What is going to happen to the revenue that flows through this to the country?
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