Q: How has the role of customers changed in the face of economic turmoil in Sri Lanka and around the world?

A: The challenging socioeconomic conditions of the past few years have resulted in many changes in customers. Their expectations from organisations have undergone a radical shift. They are no longer willing to accept generic solutions that are developed for general issues. And they seek empathy, understanding and – most importantly – proactive rather than reactive solutions.

Organisations are finding it increasingly harder to maintain brand loyalty and equity since trying conditions tend to erode these and encourage price-based consumption patterns.

Q: What is the role of corporates in Sri Lanka’s economic revival?

A: Corporates – especially in the financial services industry – have a significant role to play. Macroeconomic issues prevailing in the country have directly impacted the profitability of operations across all sectors. A few are affected more than others.

It is time to reevaluate operations, add or remove product lines in keeping with their contributions to the business, look for new markets and even venture into diversification. Each industry has challenges and opportunities even in such times.

The country needs an export orientation and a manufacturing focus to miti­gate economic challenges. Our policymakers should ensure corporates receive support, and enjoy a supportive environment to rebuild businesses and revive the economy.

Q: Which measures were taken to sustain or grow your organisation last year?

A: The banking sector is at the forefront of economic revival and it’s one where external pressures affect vital factors such as capital adequacy, NPL ratio and overall profitability.

Our endeavours to sustain operational stability have been in line with comprehensive business continuity and risk mitigation structures. We have looked at increasing operational efficiencies, reevaluating cost structures and taking steps to raise capital.

We have taken extensive measures to safeguard our customers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic downturn.

This involved working with foreign funding agencies, designing our relief packages and continuous engagement with affected customers, to provide support to rehabilitate and revive businesses wherever necessary.

Q: How do you view your prospects in regional and global markets?

A: The bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh where it operates 19 outlets; Myanmar where it has a microfinance business; and the Maldives where it has a fully fledged Tier I bank with a majority stake. The bank has a vision to expand in South Asia when it is strategically feasible and makes business sense.

Our expansions in terms of overseas investments will depend entirely on conducive business environments in the selected locations and prevalent conditions in local markets. Commercial Bank has aspirations to become a world-class regional bank, and we will strive to achieve that.

Q: Do organisational performance and environmental sustainability go hand in hand? How is this need being addressed by your organisation?

A: It is paramount for performance to go hand in hand with sustainable business practices.

Whilst environmental sustainability is essential to preserve the planet, integrating sustainable practices into an organisation’s core business is the need of the hour.

We follow a meticulously crafted sustainability strategy and blueprint, which is the guiding light in planning the bank’s sustainability activities.

S. Prabagar
Chief Operating Officer

Once annual business goals and objectives are set, sustainability targets are aligned accordingly.

For example, the Premises Department would have measurement indicators such as the percentage of energy reduction to be achieved, number of branches to be converted to solar power and so on.

The Risk Department’s sustainability dashboard would include metrics such as exposure to ‘negative list’ and ‘exclusion list’ activities as identified in the social and environmental policies of the Bank, due diligence statistics and corrective action plans provided.

The Green Finance function’s measurement parameters would entail achieving a stipulated portfolio growth over the year. Environmental conservation is also a key area in the bank’s CSR efforts.


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