Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide empirical evidence from the Bangladeshi banking industry of institutional influences and banks’ strategic responses to these influences using Oliver’s (1991) framework. Originality: To the best of our knowledge, the paper is the first of its kind to explore banks’ strategic responses to institutional influences using both quantitative and qualitative method. Theoretical perspective/key literature: The study is grounded by the new institutional sociology theory (NIS), and Oliver’s (1991) strategic framework. Design/methodology/approach: Survey and post-survey interviews were used to obtain data from top management of the population of 35 Bangladeshi-owned commercial banks. Findings: The key finding is that the larger banks are more responsive to social and environment policies in lending, favouring less active strategies. Moreover, banks that co-operated with others in their industry choose less active strategies and are less inclined to engage in active resisting strategies of avoidance and defiance. Research limitations/implications: The paper was conducted only in one single industry. Futures research could expand the study to a more representative sample. Practical/social implications: The paper has important implications for the understanding of firms’ strategic responses to institutional influences, which adds to current academic knowledge and helps inform regulatory policies.