Newly appointed CEO and General Manager Rasitha Gunawardana maps out the future
Q: Could you outline the highlights of People’s Bank’s journey?
A: The bank’s fundamentals are based on the overarching significance of its name – being a ‘people’s bank.’ Its history speaks of a transformative bank that’s grown into a network of 737 branches, over 4,000 ATMs and more than 200 Self Banking Units operating 24/7, 365 days with real-time access.
A team of over 8,000 drives the bank in its quest to become Sri Lanka’s undisputed market leader in financial services. Its 10 million customers contribute to a deposit base of Rs. 1.4 trillion and solid financial foundation, while governance and best practices have augmented its Fitch rating from ‘AA’ to ‘AA+(lka).’ People’s Bank is among the three most valuable brands as stated by Brand Finance – its brand value has grown by 29 percent to 45.5 billion rupees in 2019. And we have steered Sri Lanka’s banking sector through new vistas for nearly six decades.
Q: What is your vision for People’s Bank?
A: We are not diverting from our strategic plan of becoming the best financial services provider in the country. With roots as a rural bank that began with the cooperative movement, our progress is undisputed and the promise of empowering people remains a strong ethos across the bank’s operations.
Therefore, segments encompassing multiple social strata and demographics – from the farmer in the field to students at their desks and the business community driving the economy – will be empowered.
Q: Are there recent developments of note for the corporate sector?
A: We’ve developed numerous digital platforms to fulfil aspirations in our digitisation journey of providing easy access to banking services. But corporates must be ready for this digitised mindset.
We are at the forefront of changing that psyche and urge corporates to make technology a key driver of banking.
Recently, we introduced Corporate Internet Banking, Corporate Mobile Banking and the Corporate Loan Originating System – a cohort of digital banking solutions specifically for the corporate sector.
Q: How is People’s Bank evolving along with global trends?
A: The entire global economy is connected and the banking network is the main conduit for this. There’s no such thing as a local bank; any weakness of a country will suggest a cascading contagion.
It is imperative for the global banking network to remain strong. Banks must capitalise to ensure that corporate governance and ethics go beyond compliance, and that the decision-making process is transparent, accountable and sincere. A bank should be able to stand the scrutiny of rating agencies or other banks as that would be the test of global sector stability.
Q: Does People’s Bank have the above in place?
A: Yes, of course. These are rudiments that we’ve been emphatic about. Having undergone stringent audits and compliance processes, we have emerged with flying colours.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is pleased with our performance. Our team must be commended for always looking three steps ahead in ensuring that the bank’s goals are met.
Q: How important is innovation, in your view?
A: Without innovation, we won’t survive. Banking is a homogenous product that
must be differentiated – and innovation is the only way to achieve that. While quantitative results showcase financial soundness, innovation enables a bank to distinguish itself through pioneering and trail-blazing products and services that defeat the competition.
People’s Bank works with small teams so that innovation is a bottom-up approach, encouraging even the youngest participant to incubate ideas. This assures innovation at every level, and creates a rewarding culture filled with opportunity and aspirations for all team members.
Q: What are People’s Bank’s strengths in competing effectively?
A: We always maintain a focus on our roots and the confidence the citizens of this nation have in us, which we use to leverage on synergies accumulated over 58 years in operation.
Innovation and IT have become notable strengths in achieving our vision. By being proactive and aware of world trends, we have been able to concentrate on developing our platforms, and designing pioneering product and service solutions to position the bank on a par with other global banks, thereby empowering stakeholders to be internationally savvy banking citizens.
Our digital initiatives are geared to meet the aspirations of multiple demographics – especially the younger tech generation whose banking habits are evolving rapidly. Therefore, we’re raising the bar in terms of tech knowledge among all and making them global citizens in a highly networked world.
Q: So what’s next for People’s Bank?
A: We’ll keep our foot on the accelerator. We do have some challenges to overcome, one of which is being a state bank whereby the government depends on our dividends, impacting plans to reinvest in our portfolio.
However, we’ve begun the process of gaining parliamentary approval to amend the People’s Bank Act that enables us to infuse debt capital, which will provide ample risk bearing capacity for our growth plans at least in the next five years.