Nilani Seneviratne


In your assessment, have we as a nation evolved in our banking practices?
Yes, I truly believe so. Looking back to when I began my career in banking over 25 years ago, we have come a long way.

We have expanded our banking facilities and products, and reached out to the most remote areas of the country and encouraged even the rural masses to form banking habits. A good example of this is the shift to image-based cheque clearing more than a decade ago.

Our payments and settlements systems have witnessed groundbreaking changes as well. Sri Lanka currently offers multiple methods of real-time payment solutions and we have integrated banks onto a single network of ATMs.

We have a visionary regulator in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, which is very supportive of innovative solutions – and that is a great incentive.

What are the pros and cons of smartphones being an integral part of banking services today?
Smartphones have become an integral part of life. So the invasion of the smartphone into banking services is natural given its multiple uses. Increasingly, more banks are changing over to digital banking.

We have shifted to clicking on an app for all our banking services. This provides transparency as customers can view their portfolio of accounts and details of transactions long before statements are received. It also enables customers to obtain banking services anywhere and anytime without having to wait in queues.

On the other hand, we tend to lose the human touch as customers now opt for self-service banking – unlike in the past when they spoke to staff and built relationships.

Another cause for concern is the cybersecurity threat. Even though banks may use appropriate security measures with strengthened controls, the environment is too vulnerable to rule out hacking completely.

Would you agree that competition drives innovation? If so, how is this occurring in Sri Lanka?
I fully agree that healthy competition is needed for any sector to thrive. We see very positive changes taking place in Sri Lanka where banks that didn’t have many attractions previously are offering innovative solutions to customers.

Banks must introduce their own innovations rather than copy others. When customers have multiple choices, they would opt for the most convenient and attractive option. In this regard, if a bank is not on a par with market standards, it will inevitably lose customers to the competition.

How do you perceive ‘green banking’ – and how should it be implemented?
Green banking is the way forward – as responsible citizens of the planet, we need to be conscious of our environment. If we don’t save Earth, who will?

The banking sector is generally associated with dealing in reams of paper. But increasingly, more banks are shifting towards simplifying their documentation and using soft copies for transactions. Electronic solutions such as e-statements, e-advices and online platforms to initiate transactions have already become the norm.

While a large percentage of clients in urban areas may opt for such solutions, banks will need to create awareness in communities where customers are reluctant to utilise green banking services. Banks can encourage customers to transact via online platforms and reward them by charging lower commissions or fees than for paper-based transactions.

So what will the future of banking be like?
The future of banking will depend greatly on digitisation and innovation. The market will be very competitive with innovative products on offer. In a paperless environment, electronic wallets will override traditional cash handling.

And digital banking with quick online solutions will be the order of the day. Moreover, the introduction of robotics for back office processing will revolutionise the future of banking.

Customer relationship management will be important with service standards going beyond merely serving clients to delighting them. Enhancing the compliance environment in line with regulatory guidelines and strengthening risk management will also be critical.

Banks need to explore untapped markets and go beyond the competition by creating new markets.

What is your mantra for success?
I act with total commitment and loyalty. Accepting challenges, being positive about change and raising the bar for excellence has been my mantra for success. As a believer, I thank God for being my guide and strength.

Describe yourself in one word…

Nilani is the Vice President and Head – Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) Operations of Citibank (Sri Lanka)
– Compiled by Ruwandi Perera