KARACHI - In reaffirming its commitment to support businesses in Pakistan, Standard Chartered Bank recently welcomed its Global Head of Small and Medium Enterprise Banking (SME) Tim Hinton for a two-day visit to Karachi.Tim’s visit signals the country’s importance as one of the bank’s growing commercial and SME markets across its footprint in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. “The SME segment has grown at almost twice the rate of Gross Domestic Product in most markets and is expected to grow at 10-12 percent per year across our footprint. Our ambition is to be the leading international bank for SMEs, building the segment into a multi-billion dollar business over the next three to four years,” he said. With more than 3.2 million SMEs in Pakistan, growing business in this segment is key to the bank’s growth aspirations. “With our needs based approach and strong capabilities, we are well positioned to help our SME customers capture business opportunities and expand across markets. This is timely in view of the government’s rising interest in spurring the development of a more diverse, competitive and high-growth SME sector.”In demonstrating its commitment, Standard Chartered in June became the first international bank to launch the country’s first SME Centre to provide easy access and dedicated service to power the growth aspiration of the SME sector. The Bank looks set to establish 20 Trade Centres across the country by early next year.In line with the bank’s strategy of deepening customer relationships, each customer will be serviced by a team of specialists, delivering holistic solutions for SMEs addressing working capital and business expansion requirements, business protection yield enhancement and Shariah compliant Saadiq Trade and Lending Services.Standard Chartered has been operating in Pakistan since 1863 and has the largest branch network among international banks. With 131 branches in 29 cities and more than 180 ATMs and CDMs, the bank is ideally positioned to service its clients in the country.