Sierra Leone is home to 13 commercial banks, including 10 foreign banks (6 Nigerian, 1 British, 1 German, 1 Malaysian, and 1 from Togo, along with 2 state-owned banks and 1 domestic private bank). These banks are well capitalized 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 Chartered Bank is the third largest bank after 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 Savings Bank, six community banks, one capital discount house, three housing finance companies, nearly 50 microfinance institutions run by various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and 68 foreign exchange bureaus.
Banking accounts for 95 percent of the financial sector’s assets. Additional banks have received licenses and should commence operations soon.
All of the 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, 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 involving over-the-counter transactions. 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 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 and consisting of representatives of the government and the private sector. For more information, The Bank of Sierra Leone also published a guide.