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June 5, 2001
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BankMuscat to expand operations in India

Fakir Chand in Bangalore

BankMuscat, the largest bank in the Sultanate of Oman, which launched its first overseas operations in India from Bangalore three years ago, is gearing up to expand its presence with another branch in Bombay.

Set up to provide financial services to Indian corporates and retail customers, the bank will soon be applying to the Reserve Bank of India for permission to open its Bombay branch by this year-end.

"Though Bombay is the business capital of India with the largest banking operations in the country, the decision to launch our Indian operations from Bangalore was a strategic one," said Samit Ghosh, chief executive for the bank's Indian operations.

Having made a strong presence in south India with about 30 corporate accounts from Bangalore, Madras, and Hyderabad, BankMuscat plans to extend its treasury operations to the western region from Bombay. It has around 6,000 high-profile retail customers at its Bangalore branch.

"Our objective is to emerge as a strong player in offering financial services to Indian customers and become their global centre for all their transactions. We are awaiting clearances from our board to go ahead with the branch expansion plans," Ghosh told in Bangalore on Tuesday.

With more and more multinational corporations, including global IT companies setting shop in major metros of India, the potential for value added services using the latest banking technology is immense.

Commencing its operations from mid-1998, the bank's treasury section offers full-fledged services, including competitive foreign exchange rates for remittance transactions, market related rates for floating rate deposit and LIBOR rates on RFC deposits over $5,000.

"We also want to extend fee-based activities such as LCs, guarantees, and payments services to newer customers in the Bombay region in association with other banks like Citibank, Vysya Bank, HDFC Bank, and Corporation Bank," Ghosh stated.

The bank's efficient and quality services have attracted the attention of many corporates and businesses dealing in trade and exports.

The bank's corporate products include export finance and foreign currency hedge products, besides finance for trade and working capital. Under investment banking, it offers joint venture advisory, equity placements, and corporate advisory.

At the end of fiscal year 2000-01, the bank's deposits shot up to Rs 1.70 billion, but advances remained low at Rs 1.65 billion. It, however, generated higher revenues by making strategic investments in government securities and treasury bills. The net profit was Rs 21 million.

In the retail segment, the bank has launched a unique scheme called 'EasyLife' for its savings account holders to provide innovative features and services. Under the scheme, the bank takes care of its retail customers' daily personal chores, including health and finance matters.

According to the bank's vice-president for retail banking Shome Sen Gupta, the EasyLife services are offered in three areas, viz., personal, healthcare, and money management. The Personal Life Manager service takes care of the customer's every conceivable need, like buying movie tickets to bus tickets; free home delivery of groceries to laundry, paying bills for electricity charges and school fee of their children.

To be charged just Rs 25 per month for the personal services, the bank has tied up with Les Concierges, the country's first personal and business service provider, which assists customer-focused corporates in providing personal assistance to their employees and customers. It has strategic vendor tie-ups with over 10,000 affiliates across the country.

The healthcare services provided under the Health Manager scheme offer discounts on medical check-ups and hospitalisation, home delivery of medicines, and ambulance service. The bank has tied up with Medybiz to provide the health services.

Medybiz is India's first Internet and telephone health services company that ensures healthcare at the doorstep of any person needing medical attention. It has also launched the Medycard, a unique and personalised healthcard that provides a range of benefit to its customers. The services include Medyshop, Medylab, Medycab, Medycall, and Medyappoint.

The bank's Money Management service provides under the Wealth Manager, automatic transfer of excess funds into a fixed deposit where a customer will benefit with a higher rate of interest. The bank has tied up Parasmoney to provide specialised personal investment, tax-related advice, including preparing and filing of IT returns. Home banking, special discounts on personal loans and car loans are its other features.

Parasmoney Investment Management Services Ltd is a personal finance management company providing a full suite of financial services to individuals, including customised investment planning, investment tracking of individual portfolios, financial and legal advice on property and insurance.


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