Q: How has your organisation grown over the years?
A: Since its inception 39 years ago, Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka & Finance (MBSL) has been growing consistently. MBSL’s employees have brought our vision – to be the most innovative business solutions provider to the nation – to life through disciplined action and dynamic decision making to enhance stakeholders’ quality of life.

Throughout last year, we continued to pursue new opportunities whenever they were accessible. Our well thought out strategies harnessed opportunities and turned obstacles in our favour while carving niche markets to hitherto underserved segments.

Additionally, we sharpened our focus on markets for SMEs, vehicles, real estate and pawning while strengthening customer service by upgrading MBSL’s call centre facilities.

Being positioned as the first merchant bank in Sri Lanka, MBSL has many experiences and knowledge that can be shared with the industry. Having absorbed previously defunct financial institutions into the fold, we have proven that stability and high performance can be garnered with clear guidance and direction.

With a focus on SMEs and empowering Sri Lankan businesses, MBSL continues to be a growth partner to the economy.

Q: What is your assessment of the impact of the pandemic on branding in general?
A: The global pandemic has resulted in changes to every sector and brand, and all aspects of marketing – such as advertising, promotional and media spending. It has forced brands to reevaluate their thinking about current and future advertising and marketing campaigns to maintain steady revenue streams.

While brands presently seek to strike the right tone, the future portends market alteration, increased competition, and demand for creative and aggressive marketing practices. Most brands will be up to the challenge, harnessing creative and innovative marketing strategies to navigate businesses through this ‘new normal.’

This includes dealing with market alterations, facing increased competition, addressing sustainability issues, evaluating operational alternatives, overcoming brand reputation challenges, identifying new products and services, focussing on strategic marketing campaigns such as targeted advertising, and using social media effectively.

During the pandemic, MBSL was at the forefront, providing relief to its clients and all Sri Lankans, focussing mainly on assisting small and medium scale entrepreneurs who experienced setbacks in running their businesses.

We provided relief to more than 20,000 customers – a realisation of the company’s mandate to extend its fullest support to the business sector and customers to revive their businesses through relief in the form of moratoriums.

These measures helped MBSL connect with its customers on a deeper level, and build brand reliability and trust. Due to the pandemic, we also accelerated the enhancement of our digital platforms, which has enabled better and more engaging communications with stakeholders.

Q: What role can brand investments play in accelerating business recovery?
A: In an uncertain corporate environment, investing in brands is important for both organisations and industries.

Priority should be given to reestablishing a brand’s positioning in customers’ minds, and investing in long-term relationships. This is important to assure them that the brand is a companion and not merely a service provider.

Investing in innovation is also critical. At MBSL, we channelled our brand investments to develop new communications platforms and delivery channels, to reach out to customers seamlessly and rise together from the pandemic.

Q: How does the brand use technology to enhance its offering?
A: We are firm believers that digitalisation is not a buzzword anymore but a way of life. Bricks and mortar infrastructure will recede to be replaced when industries fully unlock its potential.

MBSL’s digitalisation process has been on an accelerated track since 2017. We have outlined a detailed implementation through a five year strategic plan, of which the first three phases have been completed – the remainder is expected to be completed next year.

Our social media platforms are geared to enable multiple stakeholders across demographics – i.e. rural, urban, young and senior citizens – to engage with us; SMEs and large corporates in various industries ranging from agriculture to infrastructure; and national enterprises.

This holistic digital approach has helped us form an integral collective in contributing to the nation’s economic development strategy.

website: www.mbslbank.com

Jude Gamalath

Chief Executive Officer (Actg.)