For Wijayantha Rangajeewa, Bank of Ceylon (BOC) is more than just a bank – it is part of his family. Having assisted him with the setting up and subsequent exponential growth of his ornamental fish export business, the owner of the aquarium, counts BOC among his biggest fans and staunchest supporters.
Having grown his business from a small-scale enterprise to reach an impressive export figure of 600-800 crates of ornamental fish a month to destinations around the world including the USA, Europe Australia and the Middle East and providing employment to nearly 5000 families, Rangajeewa attributes his success to the dedication and commitment of BOC’s small and medium enterprise (SME) services.
Nimal Jayasuriya is equally emphatic that his entrepreneurial success is due in large part to BOC’s assistance and encouragement. In 1989, Jayasuriya approached BOC’s SME services sector to help realize his dream of financial freedom. Armed with a substantial loan and the invaluable advice and continuing assistance of BOC, his fledgling instant food enterprise grew by leaps and bounds. Today his company exports 14 varieties of canned and vacuum-packed food items across the globe and Jayasuriya stands the proud multiple-time winner of the coveted Entrepreneur of the Year and NCE Awards.
As one of the pioneers in the introduction of SME financial assistance services to its portfolio over three decades ago, BOC has been the driving force behind countless such success stories.
The SME sector has long played a pivotal role in Sri Lanka’s economy. With over 80 percent of the registered businesses in the country belonging to this sector and collectively contributing over 50 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as well as accounting for 35 percent of Sri Lanka’s employment, the SME sector has been identified as a Millennium Development Goal and a significant driver of the country’s economic development and progress.
BOC was among the first financial institutions to recognize the strategic value of this sector and to play an active role in encouraging and assisting in its growth. To this end, the bank offers a range of lending lines for the SME sector, with these services today forming a sizeable portion of its lending portfolio.
BOC provides SME loans in all economic sectors, including agriculture, fishing, garments, animal husbandry, plantations, dairy, factory upgrades, tourism-related industries, infrastructure development and education. SMEs, which are not traditionally considered mainstream industries, such as beauty culture, bakeries, furniture manufacture, handicrafts, etc., also receive special consideration in the form of special interest rates and other concessions in a bid to encourage economic development in a wide variety of spheres.
The other sectors BOC together with the Government of Sri Lanka champions are female empowerment and youth entrepreneurship. Recognizing the invaluable but often overlooked contribution that women make to the economy, BOC has taken steps to increase access to concessionary finance and provide the necessary entrepreneurial skills training, etc., enabling women to achieve independence, self-sufficiency and independence. Youth entrepreneurs are also encouraged to reach for their goals through BOC’s assistance.
Recognizing the particular challenges faced by the SME entrepreneurs, BOC has gone to great lengths to ensure the financial accessibility of its products, veering away from traditional disbursement models in order to ensure greater reach of its services. Rather than insisting on complete collateral cover for a loan, factors such as the financial viability of the proposal, its potential contribution to GDP and employment, etc., are considered. Once approved, the bank’s officers work together with the entrepreneur to craft a suitable flexible financial plan. As a responsible corporate citizen, BOC is committed to ensuring environmental protection and sustainability through its endeavours. To this end, the bank encourages SMEs that focus on ensuring environmental sustainability, as well as evaluating SME proposals for environmental impact, while requiring all projects funded by the bank are required to adhere to government environmental regulations and obtain relevant licences.
BOC’s SME portfolio has grown rapidly in conjunction with the bank’s growth, with increasing deposit bases achieved through attractive interest rates, etc., being channelled to develop the SME services portfolio. The success of this two-pronged approach is reflected in the significant increase in the bank’s deposit base, growing 11 percent from 2010 to 2015 to reflect an increase from Rs.2,697 million to Rs.14, 305 million in the five-year period.
Determined to ensure the success of its customers, BOC conducts several entrepreneurial skills development programmes countrywide, which ensure that aspiring entrepreneurs are provided not only with the finances but also the necessary skills to ensure their projects succeed. These entrepreneur capacity building programmes offer invaluable advice on areas such as labour laws, tax regulations, environmental concerns, financial analysis, working capital and cash flow management, effective customer service and a plethora of other vital business skills.
As one of the earliest established and most respected financial institutions in the country, BOC has served for 76 years ensuring financial safety and success to the nation as a whole. Offering benchmark products and services designed to uplift and empower the country’s SME sector, BOC is committed to ensuring a positive social and financial impact through its operations, uplifting lives and building relationships that empower and endure.