Bangladesh is a developing country with an impoverished banking system, particularly in terms of the services and customer care provided by the government run banks. In recent times, private banks are trying to imitate the banking structure of the more developed countries, but this attempt is often foiled by inexpert or politically motivated government policies executed by the central bank of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Bank. The outcome is a banking system fostering corruption and illegal monetary activities/laundering etc. by the politically powerful and criminals, while at the same time making the attainment of services or the performance of international transactions difficult for the ordinary citizens, students studying abroad or through distance learning, general customers etc.
The first modern bank in Bengal was Bank of Hindustan, established in 1770 in Calcutta. It was an offshoot of trading company Messrs. Alexander and Co. and operated until 1832 when the trading company failed. The circulation of its notes was limited to Calcutta and its immediate environs.
A number of Calcutta-based banks followed, none which survived beyond the middle of the 19th century: General Bank of Bengal and Bihar (1733–75); Bengal Bank (1784–91) (no relation to the later Bank of Bengal); General Bank, later General Bank of India (1786–91); The Commercial Bank (1819); The Calcutta Bank (1824); The Union Bank (1828); The Government Savings Bank (1833); and The Bank of Mirzapore (1835).
The Bank of Calcutta, established in 1806, is the oldest still in existence in some form. It was renamed Bank of Bengal in 1809, was merged into the Imperial Bank of India in 1921, and became the State Bank of India in 1955.
The first modern bank headquartered in Dhaka was Dacca Bank, established in 1846. It did a very limited business and did not issue banknotes. It was purchased by Bank of Bengal in 1862. Bank of Bengal opened branches in Sirajganj and Chittagong in 1873, and in Chandpur in 1900. In 1947, upon the Partition of Bengal, it had six branches in East Bengal, in Dhaka, Chittagong, Chandpur, Mymensingh, Rangpur, and Narayanganj.
Following the partition, branches of the registered banks started shifting to India or close down their operations in East Bengal. Resulting only 69 branches were left all over the East Pakistan in 1951.
In 1959, Eastern Mercantile Bank Limited was established and had 106 before independence. Consequently, in 1965 Eastern Banking Corporation was established and soon reached 60 just before the liberation war. These two banks were established with the initiation of some renowned Bengali businessmen for providing credit to the local entrepreneurs who had limited access to the credit in those days from other financial institutions of West Pakistan.
The banking system at independence (1971) consisted of two branch offices of the former State Bank of Pakistan and seventeen large commercial banks, two of which were controlled by Bangladeshi interests and three by foreigners other than West Pakistanis. There were fourteen smaller commercial banks.
Virtually all banking services were concentrated in urban areas. The newly independent government immediately designated the Dhaka branch of the State Bank of Pakistan as the central bank and renamed it the Bangladesh Bank. The bank was responsible for regulating currency, controlling credit and monetary policy, and administering exchange control and the official foreign exchange reserves. The Bangladesh government initially nationalised the entire domestic banking system and proceeded to reorganise and rename the various banks. Foreign-owned banks were permitted to continue doing business in Bangladesh. The insurance business was also nationalised and became a source of potential investment funds. Cooperative credit systems and postal savings offices handled service to small individual and rural accounts. The new banking system succeeded in establishing reasonably efficient procedures for managing credit and foreign exchange. The primary function of the credit system throughout the 1970s was to finance trade and the public sector, which together absorbed 75 percent of total advances.
After the liberation of Bangladesh, the twelve Banking companies who were doing business in Bangladesh, were nationalized by the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.