Asia's best bank for SMEs 2016: OCBC
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Asia's best bank for SMEs 2016: OCBC

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If you register a new business in Singapore – and there is truly nowhere easier to do so – then within a matter of weeks you will get a call from OCBC offering to help. Every single person who files with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority is contacted, and it is commonplace for businesses to get access to funding within six months of signing the incorporation forms. Approvals take just a day, services are simple and targeted, and as a result OCBC supports one in two start-ups in the city state.

It’s an approach so early and apparently risky that it raises a number of questions, chiefly about defaults; but NPLs in the Business First Loan product, which serves start-ups from six months to two years, are just 1.87%, not far above the group-level figure.

The next question is whether it works, which from a bank perspective, it clearly does: OCBC’s SME business doubled its net profit between 2010 and 2015, with compound annual growth rates in revenue of 15% in Singapore and 19% in Indonesia, over that period.

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