Excellence in leadership in Asia 2020: CB Bank


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What CB Bank did right in the early days of Covid-19 was to recognize that the main pressure facing its customers was a shortage of cash.

Myanmar, with its patchy infrastructure and complex topography, is a tough place for banks to operate. Privately run CB Bank is projected to open its 300th branch this year, but it is still playing catch-up; a decade ago that tally was just 18.

Lockdown placed additional stress on customers, particularly those in rural areas unable to reach the nearest branch or cash machine.

CB Bank’s solution was to reconfigure the six blue-and-yellow badged vans it uses as a backup when in-house ATMs at the big multinationals run out of cash – a regular occurrence given that most workers in Myanmar like to hold monthly earnings in their hands.

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Kyaw Lynn

CB Bank sent the mini-fleet on a national tour, to cities and towns and to many of the country’s 70,000-plus villages. The idea was a success, with the vans acting as full-service mobile branches.

Each mobile lender erected a large blue tent wherever it parked and set out well-spaced seating for customers.

The effect the vans had was threefold. First, they prevented customers from clustering in a physical branch – making it harder for a single person to transmit coronavirus to anyone else. Second, they acted as a de facto social safe space where people could gossip and share news.

Finally, the vans did what banks do best, take deposits from and disburse cash to needy citizens.

“Many non-bank mobile agents were closed during the lockdown period,” CB Bank’s chief executive Kyaw Lynn tells Euromoney. “[We had to] strive to find ways to help customers with the services they needed most: cash in, cash out services and [access to] money remitted by their relatives working overseas.”

As CB Bank demonstrated during Covid-19, leadership doesn’t have to be about the grand gesture, often it means doing the simple stuff well.