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Bank Muscat wins Best SME Bank award in recognition of unique initiatives

MUSCAT, 30 January 2016 – Bank Muscat, the flagship financial services provider in the Sultanate, won the coveted Entrepreneurship Award 2015 in recognition of unique initiatives in support of SME development in the Sultanate. AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive, received the Best SME Bank award from H.E Mohammed bin Al Zubair, Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan for Economic Planning Affairs, at the award ceremony held at Sultan Qaboos University. Organised by Riyada, the Public Authority for SME Development, the second edition of the Entrepreneurship Award honoured outstanding SME development initiatives across Oman.

AbdulRazak Ali Issa said: “In light of the importance accorded by the government to support SME development in Oman, Bank Muscat is proud to win the Best SME Bank award. Complementing government efforts in strengthening the role of SMEs in the economic development of Oman, the unique SME initiatives launched by Bank Muscat are aimed at filling the gaps and empowering entrepreneurs to chart successful business ventures. Stemming from the Royal directives to promote the role of SMEs in the development of the national economy, Bank Muscat takes pride in adopting tangible steps aimed at SME development benefiting the country's youth."

Over the years, the bank has launched a series of initiatives as part of a comprehensive plan to support SME development in Oman. Aimed at strengthening the SME sector, the bank's al Wathbah SME department offers a comprehensive suite of tailor-made finance solutions. A unique SME financing launched by the bank has helped entrepreneurs overcome challenges arising from the requirement of collateral guarantees. al Wathbah SME non-collateral finance not requiring collateral guarantee is a bold step affirming the bank's commitment to encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in Oman. In another initiative in 2012, the bank partnered with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to launch the government guaranteed finance in support of SMEs.

The bank has also taken the lead to support women entrepreneurs in Oman. In a major boost to SME development initiatives by women entrepreneurs, the bank recently presented the first Al Wathbah Businesswomen's Award, which is set to become a major annual celebration aimed at appreciating and recognising Omani women entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence in their business benefiting the community. Encouraging entrepreneurial skills and empowering Omani businesswomen, the award recognises businesswomen for playing an important role in contributing to the country's economy.

Another initiative by the bank is an online networking forum for women entrepreneurs. al Wathbah Businesswomen's Forum allows women entrepreneurs to engage in live online networking. The dedicated web portal brings together businesswomen and helps them to benefit from each other's business expertise and experience. The forum serves as a source of inspiration and encouragement for women to embark on SME initiatives and thereby contribute to the progress and development in Oman.

The bank regularly conducts workshops and seminars to equip SMEs to identify business opportunities and tackle challenges. Serving as building blocks for existing and prospective entrepreneurs, these initiatives assume importance in the backdrop of the priority accorded by the government to develop the SME sector in Oman.

The support to SMEs and women empowerment initiatives stem from the bank's commitment to create self-employment opportunities for youth who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country's population.

The bank organised a unique mentoring programme for young entrepreneurs under the direct supervision of AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive. The beneficiaries drawn from diverse fields gained valuable guidance and skills to promote and establish their business ventures. Aimed at creating a successful generation of entrepreneurs, the CE mentoring programme was an initiative developed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The bank's al Wathbah Business Zone is a unique facility that addresses the needs of entrepreneurs in Oman. The business zone in the bank's head office can be used free of cost by SME customers who do not have their own office space. 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 SME TV from Bank Muscat is the first educational video channel in the banking sector in Oman with the sole objective of helping SMEs gain 24/7 access to vital information that help drive their business further. The dedicated online channel for SME customers mainly include videos featuring experts sharing critical information on subjects that help SMEs gain in-depth understanding about business operations integral to succeed.

Giving a major thrust for micro and small businesses to play an important role in diversifying the Sultanate's economy and creating job opportunities for Omani youth, Bank Muscat najahi products and services have created a benchmark.

Securing credit without collaterals and accessing innovative banking services have been hurdles faced by micro and small businesses. The specially designed najahi products mainly include credit facilities without collaterals to develop and grow micro and small businesses. With najahi, Bank Muscat fulfills the primary need of finance for the micro and small business segment.