Seylan Bank

Q: Could you share some of the bank’s key milestones? 
A: Seylan Bank commenced operations in 1988 and was one of the few commercial banks to be launched during a very challenging period for Sri Lanka.

Starting with an entrepreneurial mindset, the bank quickly rose to fame for helping many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) commence business, and soon expanded to over 100 branches across the island.

Seylan Bank has many sector firsts under its belt: introducing extended banking hours, rolling out palm top banking; implementing mobile banking units; enabling Western Union money transfers to Sri Lankans, introducing holiday banking; introducing a rewards loyalty scheme; and launching the first student saving centre – a network covering over 98 schools today.

The bank embodies resilience. Having faced severe challenges in 2008, supported by its employees and customers, the bank quickly bounced back and restored stability.

Seylan Bank has received many accolades over the years, including being highlighted as the most popular banking service provider in Sri Lanka in the exclusive customer experience rankings published by LMD for three consecutive years.

Powered by a workforce of over 3,200, the bank now operates through a network of 17 branches, 225 ATMs, 70 CDMs, 86 CDKs and a 24/7 call centre, and digital and social media channels.

Q: How did the bank face the challenges brought on by COVID-19?
A: We were quick to adapt. Prioritising employee safety and customer service above all, our first action was to appoint a business continuity team to maintain essential banking systems and functions.

In addition to our digital platforms, Seylan Bank also provided mobile ATMs across the island, supporting the public with much-needed accessibility to funds.

From a social responsibility standpoint, our employees initiated contributing one day’s salary to help those affected. With the bank matching their donations one for one, we were able to raise Rs. 20 million in funds to build an ICU for the Colombo East Base Hospital, provide face shields to PHIs and the Sri Lanka Police force, and contribute to the President’s Fund.

We also undertook the bold initiative of launching our #ResponsibleMe campaign to highlight the importance of self-awareness and individual responsibility to rid Sri Lanka of COVID-19.

Q: What role can brand investments play in accelerating business recovery in the prevailing corporate environment?
A: Brand investments are crucial to business recovery; but brand budgets are also the first to be challenged during a crisis. We strived to gain maximum returns on our investments.

The team has been proactive in deciding which media to use for communications, what public relations strategies to pursue and which products to prioritise.

You need to look at the brand as an asset that needs investment. Advertising is only one part of brand investment; there are plenty of brand touchpoints to understand and manage, especially during a stagnant period with market volatility.

Q: What factors contributed to the bank’s impressive growth for the year ended 31 December 2021? 
A: Last year was excellent for us since we achieved a profitable milestone; and the secret to the bank’s success was our people.

Our teams have shown time and time again that they have a big heart especially when challenges are thrown at them.

We conducted several internal campaigns that kept our motivation and focus on goals, supported by high engagement from the leadership team. We also targeted our marketing efforts on areas that had the potential for higher returns.

Although 2021 did have its fair share of challenges, we were able to pull through with cautious optimism in terms of our investments and derive optimum results.

Q: How do you build brand loyalty through experiences?
A: Seylan Bank prioritises customer experiences across various touchpoints both physically and digitally. Operating in a sector where products are almost homogenous, customer experiences and personal endorsements are key differentiators.

Being the bank with a heart, service is in our DNA; our employees have a natural inclination to serve customers with empathy. We invest in regular research initiatives to ensure the quality of customer experiences. And we proactively address the root causes of any issues when a service gap is identified.

All this creates brand loyalty, which enables us to be resilient in the face of volatility.

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