Bank Rakyat Indonesia
    Category: 50 Best Companies 2017 By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 40750 Date : Friday, August 12, 2016 - 07:28:27

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Asmawi Syam, president director of Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), started his career in the second largest bank in Indonesia almost four decades ago, back in 1980. He says he never imagined that banking services would evolve into what they are today. He remembers that, well into the 1990s, bankers could just wait for customers. Now, the situation is far different, with fierce competition between banks to find and hold customers, and each one offering competitive rates, services, and prizes. Not to mention the digital revolution with fintech firms offering disruptive services and alternatives to traditional banking. 

    “Changes happen and we need to adapt to survive and grow,” says Asmawi, 60. But the state-owned BRI has gone far beyond just adapting to the new situation. In June 18, BRI became the first bank in the world to launch its own satellite, dubbed BRIsat, from French Guiana in South America. The satellite is already parked in a geostationary orbit just above Papua and will be handed over to BRI before the end of August.

    The $250 million satellite, which Asmawi says only cost the equivalent of 2.5 months of BRI’s payroll, is a giant step for the bank. But is it necessary? Part of the answer lies in the bank’s customer base. Being the country’s second largest lender in terms of assets and loan size after Bank Mandiri, BRI’s customers are spread out across the archipelago, mostly SMEs and micro business. To reach all of them is a logistical nightmare. BRI even has special branches on boats, called BRI Teras Kapal, to provide banking services on some islands and coastal areas. Last year the SMEs and micro segments represented nearly 45% of BRI loans, equal to about Rp 248 trillion.

    Another part of the answer is the cost. Asmawi says that BRI has already long been using satellites but renting them, specifically 23 transponders, to connect its far-flung branches and offices. Yet this approach can affect quality. For example, ATMs in urban areas are fine, while those in remote areas can often go offline. The new BRIsat carries 54 transponders, with 50 transponders dedicated to BRI and the rest used by the government. That’s more than double the current capacity and it significantly reduces the transaction response time from 10 seconds to below three seconds, as well as improving the service reliability even in the remote areas, Asmawi says. “We want to raise financial inclusion, and we are not going to get there if we only provide good services in the cities. So we need better and larger network coverage to give the same service quality and convenience,” Asmawi says.

    BRI also plans to use its satellite to support its goal to become the biggest national payments bank through the development of its e-channel system. Asmawi realizes that the digital era is shifting customers toward e-commerce and cashless payment. He adds that now customers no longer require warm service with a smile, but a fast-responding banking system with a user-friendly interface. With Indonesia’s huge demographic of young people, the learning curve for technology adaptation is fast, even in rural areas. BRI is now deploying more digital services, such as BRILink, a fee-sharing partnership program to provide banking services in areas where branch offices and ATMs are unavailable.