FinanceAsia Awards 2022-2023: Winner write-ups – South Asia

Read the rationale behind our jury’s selection of South Asia’s FA Award winners.

There was little doubt that 2022 was a tough year for everyone.

While in many cases, the big players could call on scale to prosper in this adverse financial landscape of interest rate hikes and geopolitical shocks, it was what the smaller players did that was most instructive for our judging panel.

Tapping deep reserves of resourcefulness, ingenuity and skill, enterprises across Asia Pacific performed at their very best.

From regional banks pursuing transition finance mechanisms – sometimes at risk to their own bottom lines, to the rating agencies carving out entirely new markets with entirely new products; this year’s winners of the FinanceAsia Awards are a testament to the resilience of the region.

For this year’s flagship process – in its 27th iteration – we were delighted to have the guidance of nine expert judges from across the region, whose deft knowledge of the investment banking arena, informed our selection and scoring process. Following their skilful assessment and internal review, please join the FA team in celebrating the institutions that showed determination to deliver desirable outcomes for clients and markets, through display of commercial and technical acumen.

Congratulations to the winners!

You can check out the photos from our 2023 gala dinner celebration here.





Best Investment Bank: UCB Investment Limited

UCB Investment gained plaudits from judges for operating a well-run bank in the tough financial environment of Bangladesh.

“Overall markets are tough, but Bangladesh remains an important interconnecting location,” judges said of this winning submission. “UCB has shown a lot of resilience.”

While Bangladesh has made a rapid recovery from Covid-19, the economy now faces challenges from rising inflation, energy shortages and revenue shortfall.

Rising commodity prices and a surge in imports in 2H22 resulted in a balance of payments deficit. Almost all investment banks in the market struggled to keep the bottom line positive, however after provisioning for capital market losses, UCB was able to keep them to a minimum.

In spite of the environment, UCB was behind some creditable deals in 2022.

It was the arranger and issuance manager for the Islami Bank Bangladesh’s perpetual mudaraba bond of BDT 8 billion ($74 million) marking the largest ever perpetual bond issuance in Bangladesh. With a face value of BDT 5,000 each, 1,440,000 Islamic bonds were provisioned for institutional investors and HNWIs; and another 160,000 bonds were made available to the public.

An example of its versatility was Delta Brac Housing’s (DBH) zero coupon bond worth BDT3 billion which was fully subscribed without participation from any other bank. DBH completed the raise to meet ongoing financing requirements for its housing scheme.

UCB completed a total of nine deals in 2022, totalling BDT30 billion across diverse product areas including five perpetual bonds for banks; one zero coupon bond for a financial institution; one preferred stock raise for a corporate; one IPO and one rights share issue.

Additionally in 2022, it was mandated to arrange 12 subordinated bonds for banks totalling more than BDT30 billion, 50% of which has already been raised.

Best Sustainable Bank: Infrastructure Development Company Limited

Since its inception in 1997 as a government-owned non-bank financial institution (NBFI), the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has emerged as a key market leader in bridging the financing gap for large-scale infrastructure, renewable energy, and energy efficiency projects in Bangladesh.

With paid-up capital standing at BDT7.88 billion ($733 million) – thanks in large part to exemplary corporate management, IDCOL now has the grunt to actualise some of the country’s most important energy-efficient projects.

Judges were impressed by the submission’s display of how a financial institution in a developing economy could successfully pursue the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable business models and governance policies are also giving it the edge in this segment where to date, it has disbursed BDT167.55 billion, of which BDT16.75 billion has been put towards energy efficiency projects and BDT52 billion, for renewable energy projects.

Key projects during the award period included acting as fund manager for the Malawi Off-Grid Market Development Fund to develop the solar market by providing affordable electricity to underserved communities in the African country; and facilitating a BDT4.5 billion green loan to Dhaka-based Brac University, for a new campus building.

Given the challenges in borrowing faced by university trusts (most universities are organised as trusts in Bangladesh), the loan marked a significant step towards mainstreaming long-term borrowing for universities in the country.

IDCOL’s key ingredient for success is its adaptive business model that can respond to changing conditions. The company has so far been a part of projects which directly focus on strengthening the climate adaptability of Bangladesh and mitigating related issues.

Most Innovative Use of Technology: Green Delta Securities Limited

Green Delta Securities Limited (GDSL) has instituted cutting edge products in Bangladesh; an emerging market (EM) that has the advantage of being able to leapfrog technologies thanks to its late adopter status.

“This is an early-stage market and what they are doing is interesting,” judges said of this submission.

With a strong emphasis on ESG issues, GDSL has been keen to align with the government’s vision – Smart Bangladesh by 2041 – and has been at the forefront of digital innovation in the brokerage space.

Its key development has been its online beneficial owner (BO) account opening feature which has improved GDSL’s brand image and its community acceptance. Previously, clients had to file 18 pages of paperwork to open an account, whereas now the whole process can be done using a smartphone or a tablet.

“Already clients from UAE, Saudi Arabia, UK, Malaysia, Australia, Canada have used this portal successfully and opened BO accounts comfortably,” GDSL’s submission wrote. “At present, 98% of the applicants who open a BO account with GDSL use this service.”

Similarly, its ‘GDSL Clouds’ offering is cutting the time it takes for clients to redeem their investments.

Previously, fund withdrawal requests were processed manually using hard copies and required three signatures before submission to the respective branch – a time-consuming process where a signature mismatch could slow things further.

This entire process has now been slashed to just 2-3 minutes and more than 70% of GDSL clients are using it.

Meanwhile, the bank’s customer relationship management (CRM) offering houses a client database of more than 8,000. Prior to this, the brokerage team said, client records were kept manually on separate Excel spreadsheets.

“Now this huge client database is just one click away,” it shared.


Best Bank, Best ESG Impact, Most Progressive DEI: Standard Chartered

It was Standard Chartered’s (SC) ability to go beyond the standard global offering to truly tailor its products and work to the local landscape, that made it the judges’ pick for these three international awards.

The bank scored points with milestone M&A transactions, its commitment to large projects, as well as its involvement in structured export finance transactions and hedging products. It also continues to command a leading position in the retail finance space and is Bangladesh’s highest taxpayer in the banking category.

Its “firsts” in the market included the transmission of a pioneering end-to-end digital cross-border letter of credit (LC); completion of the first automated over-the-weekend loan disbursement; the launch of an online learning platform for entrepreneurs; and various other community engagement initiatives.

SC was behind some 6% of the nation’s total direct imports; 7% of its total direct exports; a 35% share of the financial industry’s banking portfolio; a 60% share of airlines’ banking portfolios; and an 80% share of development organisations’ banking portfolios.

By any measure, SC emerged as the leading international financial brand in Bangladesh.

In terms of DEI, SC Bangladesh observed a desire for connection across its footprint, staying true to its mission statement of being “here for good”.

Its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) made great strides in 2022 both at an individual and collective level, while its Women’s Network is helping to support gender balance in the workplace by promoting an environment where women at all levels can thrive and reach their full potential.

“The goal is to shape these groups into powerful resources that bring about change and ensure success – both on an individual and collective level,” the bank’s submission said.

In an emerging economy like Bangladesh, it’s to be expected that the social aspects of ESG would be at the forefront and SC Bangladesh has done much to angle its ESG efforts towards social commitment and cohesion.

It was the bank’s work with some 7000 farmers based on Bangladesh’s so-called “chars” – sand and silt landmasses that are home to more than 5 million people – that caught the attention of our judges.

In 2022, SC and the NGO Friendship – which has been working in the chars for 20 years to bolster marginalised communities – joined hands to ensure that char-based communities receive much needed farm-to-market support to increase agricultural output, and build resilience.

The project has improved the economic condition of 7,000 climate-impacted farmers from across 36 chars via the provision of sustainable agricultural technologies and, most importantly, market-extension assistance to boost financial inclusion.



Best Broker: Nuvama Institutional Equities

Those familiar with the Indian investment landscape would probably remember Nuvama Institutional Equities as Edelweiss Institutional Equities; a solid winner in previous years’ FinanceAsia awards.

The year 2022, however, has marked a big change for the brokerage as it created a new identity and brand following the strategic investment by Pacific Alliance Group (PAG), one of the world’s largest Asia-focussed investment groups, into Edelweiss Wealth Management.

“It felt necessary to create a new and separate identity and brand which resonated with our ethos and product offering,” the Nuvama team said. “Team members seamlessly migrated over one weekend with zero adverse effect on trading.”

This product offering has lost none of its appeal for FA’s judges, who were impressed by its leading position in the derivatives segment and with its huge IPO distribution capability. Nuvama also remains India’s go-to for quant analysis.

Quantitative trading (also called quant trading) involves the use of computer algorithms and programmes – based on simple or complex mathematical models – to identify and capitalise on available trading opportunities.

Key transactions over the award period involved: Gujarat Fluorochem at INR700 crore ($84 million), Polycab at INR420 crore and Max Financial at INR390 crore.

Continued engagement and strong reach across North Asia, the EU and the Middle East; as well as traditional markets in Southeast Asia and India, has been followed up with in-roads into niche territories such as Australia, South Africa, Taiwan and Korea.

Other key statistics did not disappoint. The brokerage empanelled 64 new client accounts and 114 sub accounts in 2022, as well as successfully executing four high-quality IPOs.

In terms of market presence, its revenue share stood at 5.9% at the end of 2022 (or 4.5% year-to-date) and its institutional cash market share was 6.5% as of December 31, 2022 and 4.2% year-to-date (YTD).

Best DCM House: Trust Investment Advisors

With the majority of Indian DCM investors credit risk-averse – restricting the market to mostly AAA- and AA-rated issuers – Trusted Investment Advisors Private Limited (TIAPL) has been working to open to a broader playing field.

The firm has endeavoured to open access to lower-rated issuers through the design of credit-enhanced ring-fenced structures, thus notching up the credit rating to an acceptable level.

It is a model that found favour with FA’s judges.

“Good vision, interesting key transactions,” judges said. “They’ve put some work into market position and how they want to trade.”

Facilitating enhanced participation in corporate bonds from long-term investors, particularly superannuation funds and insurance companies, was TIAPL’s strength in 2022.

“We are engaged in constant efforts to deepen investor participation and support the evolution of public issuance of debt instruments in a landscape significantly dominated by private placements,” the submission read.

TIAPL strengthened its leadership in structured debt products in 2022 by introducing a number of ground-breaking transactions in India’s DCM.

These included the twin series of bond issuance by government-owned Andhra Pradesh State Beverage Corp (APSBCL) which aggregated INR10,005 crore ($1.2 billion) in June and December 2022 with a 10-year tenure and marked the largest ever debenture issuance by a state entity with around 3,500 investors.

The other key transaction of 2022 was a twin series of bonds by state-owned Uttar Pradesh Power Corp (UPPCL), which aggregated INR7,439 crore in March and September 2022 with a 10-year tenor.

TIAPL played a leading role in the revival of the state power distribution company by catalysing large funding through DCM.

Best ECM House, Best Investment Bank, Most Innovative Use of Technology: ICICI Securities

As an investment bank offering outstanding access to market and the latest in technology, judges found this submission difficult to go past.

The jury said the group continues to exert significant market influence and was “definitely doing very well versus other competitors”.

“This was a very strong house. ICICI is involved in almost all the significant deals of repute,” judges said.

“It came out ahead on sheer pedigree and its ability to generate wealth.”

There was little doubt, on raw statistics alone, that ICICI leads in India. Since 2020, it has been involved in 140 transactions, 56 IPOs, follow-on offerings (FPOs), real estate investment trusts (Reits) and infrastructure investment trusts (Invits). It was part of every second IPO launched in India, steering transactions worth INR5.3 trillion ($64 billion).

Boasting key team members with more than 30 years of combined experience, the firm has delivered robust expertise that ensures a strong deal pipeline across IPOs and advisory services. It has one of the sub-continent’s most deal-active institutional equities teams, which has gained a disproportionate share of procurement in transactions.

It is also the largest IPO retail broker in India, catering to more than 8.4 million online customers and a roster of private wealth clients.

“I-Sec has led the process of procuring demand and got in early anchor bids in all transactions which gave confidence to stakeholders to launch transactions in one of the most volatile markets witnessed by Indian capital markets,” the team said.

“We generated price-aggressive demand across categories in a volatile market, especially from long-only domestic institutional investors (DIIs) and foreign institutional investors (FIIs) across Asia, Europe and the US.”

In terms of technology, judges noted that ICICI had moved through several iterations, starting with its e-broker service in 2017, through its more recent wealth-tech platform.

The ICICI team is now focussed on a digitally forward financial marketplace that will take its fintech offering through to 2025.

“We aim to scale up our wealth business streams like portfolio management services (PMS) and the distribution of mutual funds, loans and insurance amongst others,” the team said.


Best Investment Bank, Most Progressive DEI: Citi

Citi continues to be the undisputed international leader in investment banking in India, with strong credentials across M&A, debt and ECM.

During the review period, once again, Citi led the most marquee transactions in India and was the first port of call for Indian and multinational corporation (MNC) clients when it came to M&A and capital raising.

The bank announced eight major transactions during the review period across multiple sectors and was involved in four $1 billion-plus transactions. It also led a wide spectrum of advisory work, across acquisitions, divestitures, demergers, and open offers in both cross-border and domestic formats.

In India, Citi had a market share of 10.2% in ECM and 5.39% in the G3 bond market. It showcased unmatched execution experience and a fully diversified deal roster across the product spectrum including IPO, Invit, offer for sale (OFS), qualified institutional placement (QIP), institutional placement programme (IPP), rights, block trade and buyback.

Citi remains the dominant international IPO and block trade house in India, leading the most deals among multinational banks.

In 2022, it led the largest ever IPO in India for Life Insurance Corporation (LIC); largest private sector IPO for Delhivery; and launched the first marketed block for two stocks (PB Fintech and Gland Pharma), post lock-up expiry.

In terms of DEI, Citi has been at the forefront of a global push by MNC banks and has made some serious progress in India.

As the first to implement a 180-day maternity leave policy in India before it was passed as legislation, Citi is driving DEI in India meaningfully.

“In India, Citi’s employee base stands at around over 30,000 employees and counting,” the bank noted.

“Around 37% of our employees are female, which is higher than the 20.3% national average. In mid-to-senior-level roles, we have seen representation move up steadily to reach 28.5% at the end of 2022.”

Best Sustainable Bank: MUFG Bank

India’s energy transition ambitions are massive. At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), or COP26, the country set a target to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2070. It also aims to boost renewable energy capacity to 500GW, and have half of its electricity generation come from non-fossil fuel sources.

For banks of MUFG’s calibre, this presents massive opportunity.

Already primed with a full suite of sustainable finance products – and with deep experience in this market – the bank has played an instrumental role in developing sustainable finance loan markets in India.

According to statistics from Loan Connector, MUFG is the top mandate arranger in India (15 deals worth around $2.2 billion with a market share shy of 12%).

In India, it has built strong capabilities in unlocking financing at both corporate and project levels. Since 2019, it has helped mobilise around $4.89 billion of debt capital towards financing greenfield renewable and transmission projects; has contributed to a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 6.9 million tonnes annually; and developed 4.55GW of solar and wind assets across seven states.

Key transactions during the period included the Housing Development Finance Corporation’s (HDFC) $1.1 billion 3-year syndicated term loan facility – the world’s largest social loan and the largest external commercial borrowing (ECB) from a NBFI in India.

MUFG was also behind the largest pharmaceutical syndicated SLL facility, Biocon Biologics’ $1.2 billion loan. 

Besides sheer size, the transaction was unique in its display of how acquisition finance can be structured as a SLL, paving the way for Biocon to extend its footprint substantially; and its incorporation of novel KPIs around the number of new patents.

The success of these key transactions is likely to accelerate use of SLLs in India.



Best Bank: Allied Bank

Of all the world’s financial landscapes, Pakistan’s would have to be the toughest in which to operate.

Recently, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the long-term deposit ratings of five Pakistani banks to Caa3 from Caa1, including those of Allied Bank. The reasons were not hard to see.

With inflation at a historical high of 31.5% in January and the central bank’s benchmark policy rate at a record 20%, borrower capacity to repay bank loans has been seriously compromised.

With non-performing loans (NPLs) and bad loans set to surge, banks’ earnings are likely to deteriorate – Allied Bank will have its work cut out over the next financial year.

However, Allied’s capability to continue close-to-normal business in what, anywhere else, would be regarded as a catastrophic financial environment, drew praise from our judges for the firm’s resilience and fortitude.

“I appreciated their focus area during the award period – covering social economic conditions,” judges said of this submission. “This stood out.”

Among Pakistan’s banks, Allied was number 1 in terms of capital adequacy ratio, which stood at 19.74%, having instituted a strong risk management framework leading to fewer NPLs – down by 3.7% YoY.

Judges, in particular, were impressed by Allied Bank’s capacity to understand and serve its own market and applauded its aim of providing collateral-free lending to SMEs.

Maximum financing to a single SME under its latest scheme, is capped at PKR10 million ($274,000) on a 9% per annum mark-up rate, with a tenor of up to five years.

Best Broker: Topline Securities

As one of the largest and fastest growing full-service brokerages and financial advisors in Pakistan, Topline has deftly charted a difficult operating environment.

Accounting for more than 60% of total institutional brokerage revenue in Pakistan, it is now starting to see a growing portion of its business come from foreign portfolio institutions in the US, Europe and Asia.

The approved broker panel for heavyweights such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Renaissance Capital and BTIG, Topline defied poor market conditions and low volumes, to maintain profits in FY22.

Operating revenues were up 2% while overall profits remained flat for the period. But its financial performance was one of the best among local securities firms in 2022, with a return on equity (ROE) of 15%.

Since inception, Topline has remained profitable, beating its competitors with a 10-year profit CAGR of 28%.

Over the past 12 months, the firm executed and managed deals worth PKR21 billion ($102 million) in Pakistan. Over the past five years, its corporate advisory team successfully executed various transactions valued at around PKR90 billion. 

Topline has a strong deal pipeline for 2023, with mandated transactions of over PKR30 billion.

Best Investment Bank: Habib Bank Limited

Again, judges paid tribute to a resilient operator in an extremely challenging environment.

“Habib Bank Limited (HBL) is a dominant player in the region – one that provides complexities because inflation here is the highest in Asia,” judges said in awarding Pakistan’s Best Investment Bank.

With the largest investment banking franchise in Pakistan, HBL executed 21 deals valued at almost $1 billion in 2022, underwriting for clients across a diverse array of sectors including power; telecoms and internet; oil and gas; auto part manufacturing, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG); mining; real estate; road infrastructure and water transportation.

As the most active and largest investment bank in the country, HBL has been involved in more than 260 transactions in total worth more than $43 billion to date.

It is one of few to have separate teams for project finance, DCM and syndication, as well as ECM and advisory – providing a one-stop service for clients.

Its depth of expertise has enabled it to maintain a consistently high level of deal flow, even in the face of a slowing economy.

FY22 proved to be extremely challenging for Pakistan’s economy with over 30% devaluation of the Pakistani rupee, high interest rates of around 20% and increasing inflation, resulting in major cost escalation, overruns and project delays across the public private partnership (PPP) landscape.

“HBL continued to support its client base through these difficult times via advisory support and cutting-edge solutions,” the bank’s team shared.



Best Bank: Commercial Bank of Ceylon

Commercial Bank of Ceylon (CBC) has weathered what could only be described as “the perfect storm” as Sri Lanka was plunged into its worst economic crisis in its history, in 2022.

The country’s foreign reserves, standing at around $10 billion in 2020, fell to $20 million in usable funds by 1H22, as finances reeled from years of poor government.

With the country lacking money for even the most basic imported staples – food, medicines, fuel for cooking, heating, power generation and transport – financial institutions such as CBC needed to manage prudently and decisively.

The bank increased its impairment provision for 2022 to LKR71.462 billion ($245 million), marking an increase of 189.41% and the highest ever annual provision in the history of the bank.

Despite these alarming eventualities – in which the bank itself struggled with day-to-day operations, firm and resolute financial stewardship charted the bank through these troubled waters.

The bank’s deposit base grew by 32.66% YoY to LKR1.914 trillion, while the bank’s current and savings account (CASA) ratio stood at 38.36% by end of 2022 – the best in the Sri Lankan banking sector.

Overseas operations accounted for 16.9% of assets and contributed to more than 70% of the group’s pre-tax profits.

A LKR10 billion debenture issue, meanwhile, further strengthened the bank’s Tier II capital base, bridged maturity mismatches across assets and liabilities, and expanded its lending portfolio – especially in the SME segment and for export-oriented industries.

All of this, the banking team said, helped to support the national economy.

Best Broker: Asia Securities

With an overall negative market impact from Sri Lanka’s sovereign default and economic crisis in 2022 knocking all capital markets for six – the stock market index fell 30% and average daily turnover was down 40% – brokerages in this market suffered badly.

However, FA’s judges factored this into their decision to grant Asia Securities the Best Broker award in Sri Lanka.

“Any difficulties they faced were a reflection of the market they served,” judges said of this submission.

Asia Securities did what all prudent operators do in these times – it financially “hove to”, reducing its credit exposure due to market decline. While there was lower income (total income and PBT were down 39% and 43% respectively), its operations were in a safer risk position.

As the only stockbroker providing facilitation services, prudent management of client risk meant that there was minimal facilitation. The brokerage then engaged in strategic redeployment of excess capital into high long-term yielding instruments to secure future balance sheet strength and profitability.

As the only Fitch-rated stockbroker in Sri Lanka, Asia Securities secured continued access to funding sources throughout the crisis.

Best Investment Bank: NDB Investment Bank

To say that Sri Lanka’s capital markets underwent a precipitous contraction in 2022 is to understate the ferocity of the financial and political storm that hit the island nation.

Not only did financial institutions have to weather a range of macro-economic, political and social upheavals, but they also had to work to survive the drastic contractionary monetary policy measures deployed to control the turmoil.

As an investment bank, NDB Investment Bank (NDBIB) not only came out the other side, but even managed to expand, albeit modestly.

It recently announced its expansion to Africa, after closing a deal with Hela Apparel Holdings to manage a $14 million fundraise. While small by regional standards, it was the sheer resilience of this organisation that appealed to our judges.

Despite the challenging environment, NDBIB was able to conclude LKR25 billion ($71.4 million) in capital market transactions, including LKR19.8 billion in DCM, LKR2.6 billion in public and private equity raisings and LKR2.6 billion in several landmark M&A transactions.

Notable deals included NDBIB acting as financial advisor to the private Kings Hospital Colombo as it explored pathways to bring in a suitable strategic investor

to further its next phase of growth. Investment came through a mix of equity and hybrid debt instruments that aided clearing up its balance sheet and reducing operational strain.

In the renewable energy sector, NDBIB acted as the exclusive sell-side advisor to shareholders of Sagasolar Power on its 10MW solar power plant divestiture to Aitken Spence, marking the firm’s first foray into solar power generation.


Best Bank: HSBC

A global bank with local relevance was what judges were looking for in this category and HSBC ticked all the boxes.

In Sri Lanka too, given the level of the crisis in 2022, banks such as HSBC provided much needed stability during a dangerous period. Operating in Sri Lanka for more than 130 years, the brand is known not just for its financial expertise and network, but also as a steady hand in the region.

HSBC was the first foreign bank to open a branch in the northern Jaffna peninsula following the civil war that ended in 2009, connecting customers through its international network.

The bank highlighted the work it did during the latest crisis: “To support the country and people at a time of economic downturn and FX challenges, we provided support for the importat of essential items namely, oil, medicines and milk powder.”

“We worked with several partners to channel relief to vulnerable communities,” the submission said.

HSBC operates the largest international wholesale banking operation in the country, servicing more than 1,100 clients by providing offshore and onshore banking facilities under cash management, trade and receivables, international subsidiary and corporate banking.

It also offers a comprehensive suite of digital payment solutions, including online and mobile banking and payment tracking, designed to help businesses make and receive payments quickly, securely, and efficiently, and reducing the need for manual processes and paperwork.

On ESG, the bank facilitated the market’s first SLL at $25 million, aligning a local apparel client’s existing working capital facilities with its sustainability agenda.

The total size of the bank’s facilities currently in progress within the ESG space amounts to around $90 million. The bank plans to transition its operations and supply chains to net zero by 2030; and to remove financed emissions from its portfolio by 2050.


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