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Liza Fahmida: Raising governance standards in Bangladesh’s financial institutions

Posted: 9 December 2021

Bangladesh, Alumni, COVID-19, Experience, Impact,

Liza Fahmida is applying the skills she gained through Australia Awards in her position as a Deputy General Manager of Bangladesh Bank (Bangladesh’s central bank), where she plays a vital role in drafting Bangladesh’s monetary policies. She is also implementing COVID-19 related stimulus packages and addressing the key issues of corporate governance in the banking sector to combat economic recession and promote economic growth.

Liza completed a Master of Public Administration at Flinders University in 2016. She credits her Australia Awards experience as a major contributor to her professionalism and success.

“As well as honing my analytical skills, my Australian degree and experience have given me the ability to address national policy issues from a new perspective and to seek improvement opportunities in Bangladesh’s banking sector,” she says.

Her master’s degree thesis on ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility: Banks in Bangladesh’ was put into practise when on her return from Australia, Liza was asked to head up a newly created unit under the Financial Stability Department at Bangladesh Bank. The focus of her role was to analyse and manage systemic risks in Bangladesh’s banking industry.

Liza found that the technical knowledge she had gained from her Scholarship—on topics such as organisational culture, ethics and governance, policy analysis, and public management—was highly relevant and applicable to her work. She also noted that senior officials at Bangladesh Bank valued her international experience and qualifications.

When Liza returned to Bangladesh, she observed that issues such as  financial viability, efficiency and integrity are challenges facing the local banking sector. Liza immersed herself in her job and strengthened her expertise to address these challenges and other risks besetting the industry. She conducted regular analyses and monitored the health of commercial banks, applying the tools and techniques that she learnt at Flinders University.

Having begun her career in the banking sector in the late 1990s, Liza had over the years seen many banks and financial institutions failing to provide adequate services and information to their clients due to weak systems of governance and lack of accountability. Armed with her experience and the knowledge gained from her Australia Awards Scholarship, she vowed to champion reforms in this area. Since her return to Bangladesh, she has implemented policy reforms including reviewing digital reporting systems for loan classification and their disbursement to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Liza with her colleagues at Bangladesh Bank.

In 2019, Liza was appointed Deputy General Manager of the Department of Financial Institutions and Markets in Bangladesh Bank. In this role, she heads two important sections: Policy and Monitoring in SMEs, and Special Programs. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Bangladesh economically, the central bank took necessary steps to update financial sector policies, including implementing government stimulus packages to counteract the slowing of Bangladesh’s economic growth. After discussion with her superiors, Liza embarked on supervisory and policy measures to improve customer service within financial institutions. She deployed short-term and long-term lending measures for smooth functioning of the financial system and to facilitate the flow of credit to SMEs.

Liza is now actively working to implement the government’s economic stimulus packages to respond to COVID-19. These packages aim to support economically vulnerable entrepreneurs, especially those involved in small and cottage industries.

“As COVID-19 has affected both the domestic and the global economy, it is crucial for the central bank to deploy necessary measures to improve the financial infrastructure to facilitate entrepreneurship development, with special focus on women and small enterprises,” Liza says. “The government of Bangladesh has declared cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises as the growth engine for sustainable development. As a part of the central bank of my country, I am dedicated to setting up and providing policy supports for SME development in Bangladesh.”