“Our vision is to drive BOC with digitalisation and fintech to empower Sri Lanka, to leverage the bank’s financial and operational capacity

Kanchana Ratwatte
P. K. Gunasekera
General Manager

In an exclusive interview with LMD, Bank of Ceylon General Manager D. P. K. Gunasekera discusses the bank’s role in supporting the nation during the pandemic.

Q: What is your take of the role of the state sector at this time?
A: State institutions have played a crucial role in supporting economic activity in this country. They’ve done so by supporting various factors impacting the ability to engage in or directly supporting economic activity.

In the field of finance and banking, state institutions have played a clear and crucial role. One must only read about the events that led to their formation to understand how important they’ve been to economic and social development.

The founding of Bank of Ceylon (BOC) and milestones in its journey over 81 years are clear indications of this.

Long before the term ‘financial inclusion’ was coined and became fashionable, BOC came into existence to play that role. This absence of a service provider was brought to the attention of the government at that time, leading to the bank’s establishment.

Since its founding in 1939, BOC has steadily assisted in uplifting the lives of Sri Lankans as they pursue their economic goals.

Q: How has the bank reacted to the prevailing economic climate?
A: With the major shift in the general socioeconomic conditions due to the pandemic, BOC improvised strategies to be flexible and in line with the government’s post-pandemic revival plan. Understanding the importance of continuing its operations with agility and flexibility to support the community, the bank moved beyond ‘banking as usual’ to ‘banking purposefully’ to enable the COVID-19 hit society to recover.

BOC stretched its financial concessions and digital banking scope further to encompass every socioeconomic segment.

The bank’s strategy to tackle the pandemic entailed an intensive customer focus, digital excellence, maintaining a healthy credit portfolio – while helping uplift entrepreneurship in the country – nurturing high performance teams, and ensuring that people, process and system factors are contributing to stability, good governance and sustainable growth.

Our main focus was to contribute towards achieving the government’s national economic development goals to improve entrepreneurship, assist the manufacturing, production and export sectors, and support employment generation.

Amid the socioeconomic challenges caused by the pandemic, the bank’s asset base grew to over Rs. 3 trillion.

The bank’s loan book stands at two trillion rupees, and both government and private sector lending contributed to the bank’s growth. This included lending to major infrastructure development projects initiated by the government, funding requirements for midsize corporates for business expansion, lending to the SME sector and other priority sectors – for example, agriculture, fisheries and related industries.

It was evident that businesses were rebounding after benefitting from debt moratoriums last year. This places the country on the path to economic recovery at a healthy rate.

The bank also experienced a major inflow of inward remittances through legitimate channels due to the uncertainty of informal channels that were used before the pandemic. It is expected that the growth of remittances will be a priority this year.

Furthermore, given the major development projects that have recommenced with the government’s focus on economic revival, substantial inflows of foreign direct investments (FDIs) are expected to facilitate this agenda.

BOC is in a position to align itself with these goals by way of being a financial facilitator and mediator in such development initiatives and opportunities.

Q: How has the banking sector fared in the past 12 months or so – and what are BOC’s plans for the future against this backdrop?
A: Sri Lanka’s banking and financial services industry is one of the largest contributors to the country’s GDP. It has upheld a robust compliance and governance structure laid down by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which enabled the sector to maintain its integrity and sustain stakeholder confidence.

The Central Bank is looking to continue an accommodative monetary policy stance, and maintain the Standing Deposit Facility Rate (SDFR) and Standing Lending Facility Rate (SLFR) at their current levels of 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent respectively, to support a sustained economic recovery.

Our vision is to drive BOC with digitalisation and fintech to empower Sri Lanka, to leverage the bank’s financial and operational capacity, and expand the economic potential of every individual and business entity
Telephone 2446790-811 | Email boc@boc.lk | Website www.boc.lk