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Bank Muscat committed to key support role in SME development

MUSCAT 26 January 2013 – Bank Muscat, the flagship financial services provider in the Sultanate, utilised the national symposium on small and medium enterprises (SME), held recently in response to the Royal directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, as a platform to reiterate its commitment to playing a key support role in SME development.

Ilham al Hamaid, AGM – SME Credit, Marketing and Regional Corporates, said: “The national symposium spotlighted SMEs for creating a successful generation of entrepreneurs. Bank Muscat is a strong supporter of the government policy to encourage individual initiatives aimed at self-employment. The bank encourages creativity and innovation among people, complementing the supportive environment created by the government to promote SMEs in Oman."

Ilham added: “The business environment in Oman offers tremendous opportunities and challenges for the SME sector. Bank Muscat has launched several unique initiatives to help the SME sector play its role in the country's economic development. The symposium was an eye-opener in highlighting major challenges faced by the SME sector as experts offered new perspectives on developing an entrepreneurial culture in the Sultanate."

Ilham said: “Small firms act as agents of change as they are the mechanism by which individuals with economic knowledge make best use of their resources. Moreover, new small firms provide an essential source of new ideas, experimentation and innovation leading to change and evolution. Although small firms must grow in order to enjoy scale economies and survive, many of them occupy niches, which do not require meeting minimum efficiency scales or any other cost related measures.  Hence, we are glad that public policy is encouraging the entry, survival, and growth of small and medium firms."

The SME Credit and Marketing Department of Bank Muscat has been very dynamic in financing businesses and strengthening the SME foundation in Oman. Bank Muscat is of the strong belief that SMEs help boost the local economy, contribute to the GDP and create employment opportunities. Bank Muscat not only provides funding but also training, counseling and sponsorship to SMEs.

Ilham said: “Small businesses are a vital part of the Omani economy and Bank Muscat is proud to join the government in helping entrepreneurs to address the challenges faced by SME business and provide an environment critical to SME success. Bank Muscat facilitates financing access to SMEs in Oman to help them expand and create jobs. Notably, Bank Muscat offers big support to women-owned businesses, helping them become more active players in the Omani economy."

Over the years, Bank Muscat has taken several strategic steps to strengthen the SME sector in Oman. Al Wathbah, Bank Muscat's small and medium enterprise (SME) department, has been very dynamic in financing businesses and strengthening the SME foundation in Oman. Aimed at strengthening the SME sector, Bank Muscat offers a comprehensive suite of tailor-made finance solutions. The bank also regularly conducts workshops and seminars aimed at equipping SMEs to identify business opportunities and tackle challenges.

In 2012, the bank partnered with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to launch the government guaranteed loan programme in support of SMEs. The bank also launched the first-of-its-kind Al Wathbah Business Zone, a unique facility that addresses a long-felt need of entrepreneurs in Oman. The business zone, which can be used free of cost by SME customers who do not have their own office space, offers the bank's expertise developed over the past 30 years to deal with all aspects ranging from conceptualization to setting up of successful SME units. Al Wathbah Business Zone located at the bank's head office has evoked good response from entrepreneurs with start-up ventures.

Ilham added: “Al Wathbah Business Zone is aimed at helping entrepreneurs to address the challenges faced by SME business and to provide an environment critical to SME success. A number of prospective entrepreneurs face challenges in taking forward their business plans for want of required support and facilities. Al Wathbah Business Zone addresses this issue and helps entrepreneurs at all levels to promote and establish their business ventures."

Al Wathbah Business Zone facility is available to SMEs on a first come, first served basis. Requests are to be made by e-mail to alwathbahzone@bankmuscat.com two working days in advance. Meetings are to be held during regular Bank Muscat operational hours, Sunday through Thursday (8.00 am to 3.00 pm) and the duration of meetings is limited to 2 hours to ensure maximum utilisation of the zone by entrepreneurs. 

Bank Muscat and IFC signed an agreement in November 2012 to facilitate financing access to SMEs to help them expand and create jobs. As part of the agreement, IFC advises the bank as it launches new products and services aimed at micro, small, and medium enterprises. Bank Muscat also offers support to women-owned businesses, helping them become more active players in the Omani economy. There are over 100,000 small businesses in Oman and IFC will help Bank Muscat develop a new model for reaching out to these enterprises, offering businesses not only loans, but also advisory services. The Bank Muscat – IFC agreement marks the consolidation of partnership between the two organisations. In late 2011, IFC provided Bank Muscat with a $170 million loan to boost lending to small businesses.

The Bank Muscat support to SMEs stems from the strong belief that SMEs help boost the local economy, contribute to the GDP and create self-employment opportunities for youth who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country's population.