Lao PDR is a small and least developing country. It is a land-lock country located in South East Asia, with a population of around 6.5 million, and is a member of ASEAN. It shares border with China in the North, Cambodia in the South, Vietnam in the East, and Thailand and Myanmar in the West. With annual GDP growth of about 8%, Lao PDR is working extensively on its socio-economic development to narrow the existing development gap between itself and neighboring countries. The country, thus, emphasizes development in energy, mining, small-scale industrial factories and others. The government has widely liberalized investment in the finance and banking together with amendments and establishment of laws and regulations to govern finance and banking sector. Over the last 5 years, the number of commercial banks has increased significantly with total number of 29 banks including branches of 4 world leading banks.
Foreign bank branches deliver about 9,5% of the domestic loan market in 2011, serving mainly the Laotian activities of companies from their home markets. In contrast, the banking sector is highly dominated by 4 state-owned commercial banks that, in total, account for around 64.15% of the loan market in the same year. The most significant and the largest bank in the country is Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public which holds the majority of the banking market in terms of network, assets, deposits, and loans.
BCEL was established at the end of 1975, following the independence of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, as a specialised branch of the former State Bank (Central Bank). It was assigned to monopolise and provide solely international banking services as well as to manage the grants and loans provided by foreign countries and international organisations to the Lao government.
In November 1989, BCEL transformed into the fully commercial bank. Since then, the bank has continued to grow and strengthen gradually in various fields including the size of assets, deposits, loans and the number of clients.
In 2011, BCEL has gone through a transformation from a state-run to a publicly owned bank, making it the first bank in Laos to register on the Lao Securities Exchange in January 2011.
As a public company, BCEL is now 70% owned by the Lao government, 10% owned by the strategic partner, COFIBRED a subsidiary of the BRED Banque Populaire from France and the remaining 20% of the share up for sale owned by the public, in which 10% owner by foreign investors.
Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) is the leading bank in the Lao PDR with total assets of 19,947 billion Lao Kips (approximately 2 billion USD) as of 31 December 2012. BCEL has 18 branches, 48 service units (outlets), and 11 foreign exchangers nationwide. BCEL has established business relationship with many high-profile banks worldwide, making it the largest provider of cross-border money transfer services and settlement network for business sector in Laos. Its primary services include: deposits, loans, bank guarantees, precious metal trading, internal and international settlements, ATM and credit cards and others.
BCEL is the only bank in Laos that receives the privilege from the government to arrange payroll payment for the civil servants and state employees through bank network. A number of companies and organisations also trust BCEL for the same service.
BCEL is a full member of VISA International, and BCEL also diversifies its card business by being the first bank in Laos to upgrade its ATM cards with co-brand cards -BCEL UnionPay in cooperation with China UnionPay International, making its ATM cards can be accepted across the globe through International UnionPay network.
BCEL, by itself and in partnership with foreign banks, has also established a number of firms including:
- Lao-Viet Bank, in 1999 35%
- Lao-Viet Insurance Company, in 2008 35%
- BCEL Leasing Company, in 2009 100%
- Franco-Lao Bank, in 2010 46%
- BCEL-KT Securities Company, in 2010 70%
BCEL‘s Market share 2012 as follow:
- Credit 24.65%
- Deposit 38.37%
- Asset 29.65 %
BCEL is recognised internationally in terms of quality of services and technology development. BCEL has been accredited with the international standard of ISO 9001-2008 for banking operations and international services. In 2011, BCEL won the Bank of the Year Award 2011 Laos from the Banker Magazine for its best performance. BCEL was also awarded with Laos Domestic Technology 2012 Operations Bank of the Year and Wholesale Banking Award 2012 from Asian Banking and Finance Magazine. And recently, it has been awarded with the Platinum Technology Award for Quality & Best Trade Name by Otherways Management Association Club, 3 awards from the Asian Banking and Finance Magazine and an award of Most Innovative Retail Bank Laos 2013 from Global Banking and Finance Review.
BCEL sets up the long term strategic plan to improving its operation services in to advance banking with international standards which starts from now to 2020.