Chairman of AmBank Group, Tan Sri Azman Hashim with Group Chief Executive Officer of AmBank Group, Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir (left) and Managing Director of AmBank Business Banking, Christopher Yap (right) holding a AmBank BizRace placard during the AmBank BizRace press conference. [NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD]

KUALA LUMPUR: AmBank Group expects to approve RM7 billion worth of loans for more than 1,000 small medium enterprises (SMEs) and related businesses in the financial year ending March 31, 2018 (FY18).

Its chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir said the financial banking group is committed to assisting the businesses to grow, particularly companies with a minimum turnover of RM150 million.

"We are rolling out many initiatives to support SMEs business together with Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd (CGC). We have disbursed more than RM1 billion worth of loans to SMEs over the last two years," he told reporters after launching the AmBank BizCONFERENCE in Kuala Lumpur, today.

Sulaiman said the bank has a focused team that serves SMEs, with the formation of the its new business division early this year.

"As of now, we have marked an accumulated loans approvals amounted to RM3 billion for the first half of this year. We would probably target another RM4 billion before (FY18)," he added.

He said the figure is a healthy number in line with the economic growth in Malaysia, primarily driven by mixed sectors like retail, manufacturing, export-oriented businesses, wholesale and trading.

SMEs make up 97 per cent of businesses in Malaysia and contribute nearly 37 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

Sulaiman said Ambank aspires to become among the top 4 SME banks in Malaysia by 2020. The bank's retail SME segment currently contributes about 10 per cent to the group's overall revenue.

"We want to double it to 25 per cent by 2020 or earlier. In the long-run, we foresee our SME segment would reach about one third of the overall bank's business," he said.

Sulaiman pointed out that there are a lot of initiatives by the government to encourage the SME's growth like tax incentives, the formation of Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ), funding for automation and Industry 4.0.

"SME business in Malaysia needs a lot of support not only from financing perspective but also advisory," he said.

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