THE Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) has procured a US $3 million (about K15 billion) banking software package to enhance its operations.

The package, which is anticipated to be operational by end of September, is called Flexcube and incorporates Microbanker and Finware, which the bank is currently using.

And Central Province minister Webby Kamwendo last Friday described the closure of rural branches by some commercial banks as a hindrance to national development.

In an interview, ZNCB managing director Likolo Ndalamei disclosed that the bank has earmarked an additional K2 billion for its nationwide expansion programme.

Ndalamei said the new software would enable ZNCB to enhance the efficiency of its operations.

"This will boost our drive to diversify into corporate banking. As you know, ZNCB has traditionally focused on retail banking but as the market changes, and also in response to demand, we are venturing into corporate banking," he said.

Ndalamei said this was why the bank had earmarked K2 billion for a programme that would see the establishment of corporate service centres countrywide and the upgrading of some agencies into branches.

He disclosed that the bank would upgrade the agency at Kazungula into a branch besides establishing a branch in Itezhi-tezhi district.

Ndalamei added that to enhance customer convenience, the bank would in the next three months replace 15 of its automated teller machines (ATMs).

And opening ZNCB's corporate centre in Kabwe, Kamwendo said the financial sector was so important to the national development effort that banks abandoning economically depressed and rural districts was detrimental.

"The provision of financial services is cardinal to boosting investment, both local and foreign. This is why we concerned that some banks are closing branches when they are needed to help stimulate development in rural and economically depressed districts," he said.

Earlier, Ndalamei pledged that ZNCB would relentlessly pursue the vision behind its establishment by spreading its presence to places where demand existed.