By Niro Waidyaratne
Seylan Bank recorded an impressive 1 H performance with a Profit after Tax of Rs 1.021 billion for the 6 months ended 30 June 2012. This is a strong testament and proves beyond doubt that the strategies adopted and operational improvements are yielding the desired results. The Bank’s performance indicators are all headed in the right direction and Seylan Bank is well on its way to achieve its Strategic Plan.
The Daily Mirror Business desk spoke to Kapila Ariyaratne, General Manager / Chief Executive Officer of Seylan Bank to get a brief view on the Bank’s performance. Excerpts:
Q:Could you comment about the Bank’s first half performance this year?
We’ve just released our first half results, and are very proud of what we have achieved in our first half by exceeding last full years’ profits in just six months this year. This has been achieved mainly through the growth in the core banking areas. In the previous years there were fairly large contributions from the Equity investments as well as Treasury activities. This year even without that support, the core banking activities, such as the Deposits loans trade and the remittances, have risen up, and started generating good results. This is a sustainable model rather than a lop-sided model. We are very happy that we have achieved that kind of reinvigoration of the entire operation.
Q: When it comes to stability as a Bank, where do you stand?
In 2011 we had a rights issue which brought about Four Billion rupees into the capital. With that, even now we continue to be one of the strongest in Capital adequacy, ratio wise and still above 14% when the statutory requirement is 10%. Stability wise we remained a strong bank but the challenge was to make sure that our returns are good and our stake holders are happy. We have come through a bit of a rough time during the past three years due to various events, but now we have overcome the negatives and risen up.
Q: Moving forward, what are the key areas you would like to focus on and what new initiatives have you developed?
We have focused on leveraging our skills, looking at Customer service, improving our products and adding value as a next step. Also building up our own staff, training them, focusing on their skills and their competencies in a very focused manner is what we are concentrating on. Another area we have developed is, improving our risk management framework. We’ve spent a lot of time improving our risk management infra structure to bring it up to a very high standard. As we move forward from walking to running, our safety net has to be stronger. We did a strategic plan which was a bottoms up process, with every one of our branches getting involved with their own presentation with their own views and planning on this subject. It brought in a lot of positive attitudes to the plans we are already following now, with additional improvements in various areas. From the point of the customers, it means better service and more value added product offerings.
Also we want to be the best in the industry when it comes to areas like overall governance and transparency whatever the dealings we have may it be shareholders, regulators, customers suppliers.
Q: What other benefits would a customer get if they were to come to Seylan?
Seylan Bank has always been known for their excellent customer service from the time they started nearly twenty five years ago. At that time when banking was a very stiff area to deal with, Seylan Bank re conceptualized customer service excellence in order to make customers have a pleasant banking experience. Facilities such as long banking hours and Saturday banking which have become standard features now, are some of the facilities Seylan Bank introduced to make banking a convenience to the people. Our staff is very relationship focused and it helps us immensely in all areas of banking.
Q: Where would you say the bulk of your business is?
We are a middle market SME and retail heavy Bank whilst we have a significant corporate portfolio as well. Our strength and the bulk of our business is in the SME and the middle market sector. We have a very strong and diverse portfolio of clients. Our customer base, and focus blends well with the government strategy as well, because they too focused on building the SME, middle market and the lower middle market. With the awakening of that segment, it was a good time for us to focus more and offer more facilities to that segment, as that segment was our strength as well. So it worked out well for us.
Q: What are your top products you can boast of?
Needless to say, on the deposit side, we have a very popular products a good example of which is our Tikiri Plus. This product has been synonymous with children’s savings for over two decades. Similarly Seylan sure, Seylan Thilina Sayura are some of the others
We have initiated a new innovation and new product development process in the bank and as a result have just re-launched the current account with a number of value additions.
The bank has also begun to invest on many research projects to facilitate our marketing and new product development initiatives which will be used to launch a number of other products and campaigns in different categories within the next few months. These products would no doubt be focused on delivering greater value to our current and potential customers
Q: With the competitive Banking industry offering various innovative products to customers, what has Seylan got to offer as new schemes?
Recently we launched our current account, which is a basic product, but we packaged it with a lot of features and a lot of the extra benefits which is not offered by other banks. The features range from free Internet/SMS Banking and debit cards with enhanced withdrawal limit of 150,000 per day (gold debit cards). Further value added services such as phone banking ,utility bill payment facility,,credit cards with special discount offers and 24 hour call centre support. . This is an attractive offer to the customer and brings benefits to the bank as well. Of the new products, we are also focusing on what is critical to the country. North east has been an area we have focused on. We also do lot of work in the North Central and the agricultural area to help the farmers with the loans. We have been a net lender to those areas.
Q: How is your standing on foreign remittances?
When it comes to the expatriate workers market, Seylan Bank had been the leading bank in the remittances space some time back and unfortunately we had slipped back. We want to regain our market share and we are working very closely with our affiliated representatives outside to build up this area and give the best benefits possible to our customers. Together with partners like UAE exchange and Moneygram, we are trying to further improve this service where the money is received by the recipient without delay. This is an essential service we have to develop.
Q: What are your plans and goals for the rest of the year?
This year has been good. We hope to bring in a record performance this year. The maximum after tax profit we had made was 1.2 billion which was in 2010. This year we will exceed this amount, as we are steadily moving towards it. Our advances have grown by about 19% and our deposits have grown by about 18%. We are well within the Central Bank’s guideline on credit growth. We have just announced a Debenture issue, from which we are hoping to raise anything between one to two billion. These funds will be utilised to support our customers needs and it will also support our capital and expansion of our long term loan portfolio.