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Best Bank Awards

Myanmar's best bank for SMEs 2017: Yoma Bank

Yoma Bank

SME – small and medium-sized enterprise – lending is hard going in a country like Myanmar. In a cash economy that doesn’t have an industry-credible credit bureau, mortgages, or reliable legal records on property title and ownership for collateral, lending to anyone – let alone taking a bet on a rising entrepreneur – is tricky at best. Then there’s the generously described ‘informal’ market to compete with. Loan sharks who do have collateral have been known to take out loans from licensed banks at state-set rates, and then lend it on at four times their cost of funds. Add a quixotic central bank to the mix, and it’s a brave firm that fashions itself as a SME-only lender, positioning to support the backbone of any fast-emerging economy.

That’s why Asiamoney recognizes the clear advances made by Yoma Bank, Myanmar’s fourth largest bank by assets. Banking small and medium-sized enterprises is at the heart of everything that Yoma does.

Its colourful owner, Serge Pun, has been around Myanmar longer than just about any other foreign investor and knows the scene very well. It also helps governance at Yoma that the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation sits in Yoma’s not-too-distant background as backer and overseer.

Yoma’s de facto CEO, Canadian Hal Bosher, himself a former IFC executive, says he knows every loan he’s made, targeting a sweet spot of $300,000 to $500,000 a deal. It takes a lot of shoe leather to have confidence in a risky but rising SME market like Myanmar, but as the country normalises, Yoma looks set to reap the rewards.

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