What are the key milestones achieved during the last financial year?
Commercial Bank once again affirmed its status as the largest private bank in Sri Lanka in 2015. Solid growth was achieved across all business lines and the asset base was further strengthened.
In 2015, the bank enhanced its international footprint by opening up a representative office in Yangoon, Myanmar and received the licence to operate a fully-fledged Tier I bank in the Maldives. The bank’s fully-owned subsidiary Commex Sri Lanka SRL received the approval of Bank of Italy to commence money transfer operations in Italy, further strengthening and widening our overseas footprint.
The bank extended its leasing and hire purchase services to new customer segments through unveiling our fully-owned subsidiary Serendib Finance, formally known as Indra Finance.
The bank actively pursued its green initiatives during the last year which included increasing the usage of solar power at branches, designing more eco-friendly branch premises, introduction of new generation cash and cheque deposit machines that minimize the use of paper and introduction of Green Development Loans are some of the key highlights of the green banking initiatives by the bank.
Many products and services were introduced for the convenience of our customers and the bank continued to further promote its digital channels with remarkable success.
The bank launched the innovative online learning portal ‘Sipnena’ in collaboration with world-renowned information technology (IT) service providers to facilitate free access to selected educational resources to school children via IT laboratories donated by the bank. Also under its ongoing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives focusing on education Commercial Bank also launched the groundbreaking new initiative to stimulate and develop the mathematical and analytical skills of school children.
What are the growth prospects prevalent the industries you operate in?
Microfinancing is an area where there are substantial growth prospects, given the size and the versatility of the segment. However, there are various factors to be considered such as the risk appetite of the particular organisation and the availability of channels to offer services.
Another big area is customer profit maximization through customer relationship management (CRM) and customer lifestyle management (CLM). The sector could enhance their profits substantially through customizing products and services based on customer insights gleaned from big data. It will not only enhance the customer profit maximization but will also ensure a loyal customer base.
How do you intend to capitalize on these growth opportunities?
Commercial Bank has been extremely successful in the small and medium entrepreneur (SME) sector and is one of the largest lenders to the sector. However, microfinancing is a different sector where we are operating using different tactics. We have established Agricultural and Micro Financing Units (AMFU) in potential areas for the benefit of the entrepreneurs. Without stopping at offering products and services tailor-made for the sector the bank also focuses on developing the value chain by extending financing since we believe that the sector needs overall support.
We are constantly updating our technological capabilities and CRM is a key focus area. I would say that there is substantial work is in progress.
In your opinion, what challenges do you anticipate in the industries that you operate in?
First and foremost it’s the positive economic conditions and the stable political environment that drives the sector, increasing the investor confidence. Inflation affects lending growth - therefore it is a challenge to keep it under control. The escalating costs and external factors such as increased taxation are reducing the profit margins constantly.
The consumption patterns of customers and customer demographics such as ageing population and the emergence of the millennials as a customer
segment will significantly alter the composition of the industry.
Apart from these the biggest challenge the industry face will be from the evolving technology that will keep all of us on our toes trying to stay relevant. It is paramount that the banks keep abreast of these trends and evolve accordingly or face the risk of being irrelevant, specially in the retail banking space.
What is your assessment on the readiness of your organisation to meet these challenges?
The bank is concentrating on achieving operational efficiencies through effective cost management measures, grooming and nurturing a motivated and capable workforce that helps the bank to accelerate growth through service excellence.
In the product and service sphere the bank has been very firm and clear in its strategy. Rather than rushing to be the ‘first to market’, we concentrate on being the ‘best to market’. The bank goes through rigorous measures of quality control and analysis to ensure that customers will reap the benefit of its products and services. The bank will concentrate on achieving sustainable growth across all of its business
lines whilst being ethical and transparent in its dealings.
What efforts and initiatives are you taking to drive shareholder value?
The bank is constantly working towards driving shareholder value through consistent and outstanding financial performance. Also a lot of effort is being put in to ensure that our disclosures to the shareholders and to regulatory bodies are transparent and comprehensive. Commercial Bank invests substantial funds to maintain its brand image and adopts sustainable business practices at all times.
How has listing on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) been beneficial to your company?
The stock exchange plays a pivotal role in allowing businesses access to capital and providing the opportunity for companies to enhance their visibility and public image. A country can become visible to the world depending on many indicators and the performance of its stock market is one of them. A steady and a positive stock market performance will draw in good quality investors, a key requirement for the development of the country.
Commercial Bank has benefitted from the capital raising tools such as debentures, Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and rights issues, which have allowed us access to capital whilst maintaining a reasonable control in our operational areas. Employee share issues have enabled us to reward employees and to attract top talent.
Being listed on the CSE has over the years contributed tremendously to our business apart from providing access to capital. The market exposure received through being listed on the CSE has not only brought us potential investors and new customers but also has contributed in raising our brand equity and the corporate image through positive publicity. Being listed on the CSE and being a consistent performer, there has cemented our position as the largest private bank in
Furthermore, as an organisation very concerned about good governance and transparency in all its operations, we feel that the CSE is playing the very important role of a financial regulator for transparency amongst its listed companies.
(This is the second of the Mirror Business S&P SL20 Insights interview series)