Sierra Leone is home to 13 Banks including 10 Foreign Banks along with 2 state-owned banks and 1 domestic private bank. These banks are well capitalised and looking for innovative ways to serve the market with new products and services.
The two state-owned commercial banks – Rokel Commercial Bank (51 percent State-owned) and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and the National Insurance Company and National Development Bank are slated for privatization. Standard Charted Bank is the third largest bank after the Rokel Commercial Bank and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. Other financial services include insurance companies, brokerages, two government-run development banks (National Development Bank and National Development Cooperatives Bank), the virtually illiquid postal saving Banks, six community banks, one capital discount house, three housing finance companies, nearly 50 microfinance institutions run by various nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and 68 foreign ex-exchange bureaus. Banking accounts for 95 percent of the financial sector’s assets. Additional banks have received licensees and should commence operations soon.
Banks are based in Freetown and have branches in rural areas. Accounts can be opened in both domestic and foreign currencies. Automated teller machines (ATMs) are available for domestic accounts, linking banks’ head offices with branches elsewhere, but there is no international ATM access. Credit cards can be used at major banks such as Rokel Commercial Bank.
Sierra Leone has a well-developed insurance sector, with most of its funds invested in real estate. The Sierra Leone Insurance Commission monitors and regulates the operations of insurance companies. Eight insurance companies provide competitive services (life, fire, automotive, and marine insurance): Aureol Insurance Company, National Insurance Company, Reliance insurance Trust Corporation, International Insurance Company, Transworld Insurance Company, Medical and General Insurance Company, Marine and General Insurance Company, and Sierra Leone Insurance Company.
The stock market is limited to trading in a few stocks involing over-the-counter transaction. The money market is dominated by government securities, mainly treasury bills and treasury bearer bonds.
The government plans to strengthen financial intermediation by establishing a Stock Exchange Market and a Venture Capital Fund. This effort is being spearheaded by the Stock Exchange Technical Committee, formed under the auspices of the Bank of Sierra Leone consisting of representatives of the government and the private sector. The government is creating an interim Stock Trading Facility to provide a regulatory framework for share transactions consistent with international financial practices and create a structure for more widespread trading shares. Today there is one venture capital (private equity) fund, but ways to develop this industry are being explored. For more information about the Stock Exchange Market, contact the interim Stock Trading Facility.