Islamabad: UK-funded company Karandaaz Wednesday signed an agreement with JS Bank to jointly make PKR 1 billion available for small and medium enterprise (SME) financing. Increased access to SME financing will create jobs, improve household incomes and boost economic growth at a macro-economic level in Pakistan. Karandaaz Pakistan, a company funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and JS Bank, one of Pakistan’s fastest growing banking institutions, signed the risk participation agreement to jointly facilitate SME financing. The facility has been designed on a 50-50 risk participation basis between the two organisations to improve overall commercial lending for the SME sector in Pakistan. Joanna Reid, Head of DFID Pakistan, while speaking about the partnership between Karandaaz and JS Bank said: “This is an exciting new step in the UK’s support to Pakistan’s economic growth and improved business investment climate. I’m proud of the agreement signed today (January 30) as SME financing means more jobs for younger people, a skilled workforce and innovation I businesses. The UK is committed to support Pakistan to reduce poverty and achieve prosperity for all.” Speaking at the occasion Ali Sarfraz, CEO Karandaaz Pakistan said: “It is critical for broad-based economic and employment growth in Pakistan that the existing credit contraction is reversed and brought in line with comparable international benchmarks of at least 20-30 percent of banking assets directed towards SME financing. It is also crucial for commercial banks to develop viable credit models to lend to this vital agent of the economy.” He added: “Karandaaz is glad to be partnering with JS Bank, one of Pakistan’s most forward-looking banks, to introduce this financing for SMEs.” JS Bank President Basir Shamsie stated: “Living up to its commitment towards financial inclusion, innovation and customer-centricity, JS Bank is striving to introduce value added partnerships and offerings catering to SME financing. We currently offer a range of trade facilitation services, business loans, dedicated relationship managers and other convenience focused amenities to augment the banking experience for our SME clients. This risk participation facility with Karandaaz will aid further enhancement of our SME financing portfolio and cater to the needs of the market.” JS Bank has embarked on several initiatives to strengthen its product lineup including variants of value-added financial services and technology based solutions to expand its SME relationships. In addition to introducing specific products and services for SME financing, the bank has further enhanced its focus through its relationship lending model as well as operating through several dedicated hub branches across the country.