The banking sector remains a key sector for growth of Indonesia's financial industry as well as the country's general economic expansion as the sector posted the highest profits worldwide. Prasetiantoko Augustine, economist at Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN), said that profitability in Indonesia's banking sector is not only highest in the ASEAN and Southeast Asian region but also worldwide. Bank Rakyat Indonesia posted the highest profit of Indonesian banks in 2013 (IDR 21 trillion), followed by Bank Mandiri (IDR 18 trillion) and BCA (IDR 14 trillion).
According to Augustine, there are at least two factors that account for the high profits within the Indonesian banking industry. First, net interest margin (NIM) is high. As per August 2013, NIM in the Indonesian banking industry reached 5.46 percent, the highest worldwide. Secondly, there remains ample potential for further growth of the Indonesian banking industry as banking penetration in Indonesia stands at approximately 30 percent only.
Augustine said that "especially regarding microcredit, NIM can become 12 to 13 percent, partly due to a lack of competition." One problem, however, is access to these credits (as well as the high interest rates that are normally charged). Moreover, this market contains more risks and would increase the non-performing loans (NPL) ratio.
Indonesia's banking sector was able to grow strongly in 2013 despite a more complicated context. The central bank of Indonesia (Bank Indonesia) hiked its benchmark interest rate (BI rate) from 5.75 percent in June 2013 to 7.50 percent in November 2013 in order to combat accelerated inflation and support the Indonesian rupiah exchange rate, which had depreciated sharply against the US dollar after heightened speculation about an ending to the US quantitative easing program between May and December 2013. This new macroeconomic reality causes that Indonesian banks have to curb costs and target new growth areas (a move away from the traditional commercial and individual loans which contributed significantly to banks' high net profits in recent years). Credit growth is expected to slow to around 16 percent (year-on-year) in 2014. A fee-based service such as e-banking is considered a new growth area for 2014 and beyond.
With the higher BI rate, NIM at Indonesian banks have begun to moderate in 2013 - although still high currently - and this trend is expected to continue because the central bank will most likely not set a lower interest rate anytime soon.