Uzbekistan's best bank for SMEs 2020: Asaka Bank
Asaka Bank is the second-largest bank in the country, boasting assets of Som35 trillion ($3.7 billion) at the beginning of February. It is not often that such a large institution also turns out to be an ambitious lender to small and medium-sized enterprises, but Asaka defies conventional wisdom.
The bank, under chairman Nodirbek Saydullaev, provided financing to 11,250 SME projects in 2019. That is a huge jump from approximately 3,440 the year before, indicating that the bank is not just attempting to increase its loan book but also trying to bring even the smallest clients along for the ride.
Its focus on SMEs helped it forge relationships with international lenders long before Uzbekistan’s reform efforts brought it back into the spotlight. In 2012, Asaka Bank secured a loan from the IFC to help it fund micro and SME loans. The supranational lender now owns a small stake in Asaka.
Asaka’s focus on SME lending makes economic sense. Moody’s Investors Service pointed to the shift to “higher-yielding loans to retail and SME sectors” as a factor likely to increase profits, albeit gradually. That encouraged the agency to change the bank’s B1 local deposit rating to stable from negative in January.
That should be enough to ensure Asaka Bank continues its shift away from large corporates towards the country’s small businesses. That would be the right move for a bank that has so much to offer to the country’s budding entrepreneurs.