uab was the standout bank in its country, winning the Best Retail Bank: Myanmar category at the online, virtual Retail Banker International (RBI): Asia Trailblazer Awards 2020, for its multi-year work improving governance and risk, including an annual report that adheres to international standards and contains impressive financial results, such as a 277% rise in profit after tax over the last three years based on the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) metric from 2017-2019. It also improved transaction monitoring, customer and staff engagement by opening a new headquarters (HQ), formed fintech and educational partnerships, and participated in its community.

The 2019 annual report shows uab’s commitment towards good governance adhering to international reporting, accounting and public disclosure standards; the first time this has been done by a Myanmar bank it says. It proves the bank’s financial strength:

Income & Expense – on average, income increased by >30% based on CAGR 2017-2019, while expenses decreased by <1% yearly.

Profit after tax (PAT) – The aforementioned 277% rise over three years CAGR from 2017-2019 has been audited by an external auditor and verified by the Central Bank of Myanmar. It’s the highest growth rate amongst the bank’s peers.

Loan & Deposits – The loan book registered healthy growth (with good margins and qualities), while the bank says it has carefully focused on long-term retail deposits for better stability and cheaper cost of funds. The current and savings account ratio (CASA) is >55% of the total customer deposits indicating a sustainable base. The non-performing loans (NPL) rate is consistently low at <5%, where averagely its peers may record NPL >20%.

Cost to Income (CIR) Ratio – CIR has seen a reduction to 51.5% v other peers in the industry’s typical 80% ration. This has been achieved via strong topline growth and well managed cost → efficiency and productivity.

ROE and ROA – High return on equity (ROE) at 18.5% is the highest among all banks in Myanmar. Return on assets (ROA) at 1.2% is also above Myanmar peers.

The capital adequacy ratio of the bank is 9% indicating a strong balance sheet and capital base. Management is predicting double-digit growth in the coming years.

A programme of on-going improvements has delivered these results, including periodical risk bulletins to reinforce good performance and practice v international governance norms. There has been an emphasis on improved anti-money laundering (AML), conflict of interest declarations, whistleblower policies, understanding of the need for annual general meetings (AGMs), and so on to strengthen the long-term safe running of the bank, as well as support its financial performance by garnering increased outside interest.   The improvement programme has been buttressed by:

  • Partnership memorandums of understanding (MOMs): with overseas partners like Maulife insurance; Frankfurt School (for internal & external educational skill and knowledge building); Fintechs, such as ABC and Kashtec (for digital small-to-medium sized enterprise solutions); etc.
  • A digitalisation drive: via rolling out uab mobile, Digital Wallets (uab Pay and SaiSai Pay), Mobile ATM & branch services.
  • Corporate & sustainability initiatives: A rebrand, new staff uniforms and a video, plus the 168-page 2019 annual report featuring sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects have all improved perception and performance. The philanthropic uab Foundation, for instance, is rolling out initiatives on:
  • Financial inclusion & literacy
  • uab Banking School (tie-up with the Frankfurt School)
  • Continuous efforts to reduce poverty by supporting underprivileged children, the blind, donation drives and by providing internships, etc.

New headquarters
Staff engagement has been enhanced by opening a new headquarters (HQ) in October 2019 at a prestigious address in Yangon. The uab Tower @ Times City is a world class facility that rivals the best in Asia, with state-of-the-art technology including facial recognition, wireless connectivity, large LED screens, intelligent building control, a social workspace incorporating a cafe in the sky, entertainment zones with pool tables and a Sony PlayStation and so on.

The move was inaugurated with a theme of ‘Rise Above’, which is coincidentally the motto the bank has adopted for 2020, within its over-arching slogan of ‘leading change, humanising banking’. Its new offices represent the future of the bank and its employees.

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The Retail Banker International Asia Trailblazer Awards is an annual platform that celebrates the best in class retail banking institutions and individuals for their innovative service offering and commitment to customer excellence.

If you would like to share your incredible consumer finance journey, then register for the 12th Annual Retail Banker International Asia Trailblazer Awards 2021 and submit your entry!