Bank of Ceylon (BOC) remains the second most valuable Sri Lankan brand, and the nation's most valuable Banking brand, driven but its core values and commitment to being "Bankers to the Nation". BOC's success is rooted in its dedicated employees and focus on sustainable growth, aligned with UN SDGs. Offering capital injection and innovative solutions, BOC continued to support businesses and communities during challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interview with Mr. Russel Fonseka
BOC has retained its position as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in the year 2023. What have been BOC's key drivers behind its success?
The key strength of BOC lies within the core value system of the brand. This deeply ingrained value system is developed based on the purpose of the bank that has been the same since its very inception. Its identity built as “Bankers to the Nation” speaks of responsibility and the commitment the brand shoulders fulfilling its purpose as the prime bank in the country.
The Bank works closely with all its stakeholders delivering value that empowers them to enhance their net worth. The Bank’s employees are the key and major driving factor in the Bank’s success story. It was this factor that enabled the brand to build its integrity and reputation as the country’s No.1 banking brand for over eight decades. With the purpose and people in the right place, the brand ensures that it maintains an agile yet resilient system and structure that is responsive to the environment it operates in. Over the years the “BOC” brand accrued financial and operational capacity that enables it to emerge as the leading banking brand with a legacy that stretches beyond our shores. We have over 2,000 customer touch points across the country, four foreign branches and a banking subsidiary in London. The bank maintains a balance sheet that comprises of assets of over Rs. 4 trillion and a customer base over 14.8 million.
We are a brand that is focused on sustainable growth. The model for sustainable growth is built within our own systems and processes, which is also highly compatible with United Nations’ SDGs. This structure has been instrumental to the brand’s understanding of the impact it makes on all its stakeholders and how to measure and improve the value delivered to them.
Following two years of pressure, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 brought new macroeconomic challenges to Sri Lanka’s economy. What role did BOC play in the revival of businesses and communities during this period of crisis?
Maintaining a healthy banking sector outlook is crucially important during an economic crisis, as confidence built on the banking and finance sector is a major determinant for the survival of the sector in a contracting economy.
More stringent measures were taken to maintain good governance, whilst continuing to assist individuals and businesses to survive the hardship. The bank played an integral part in assisting business to maintain operational integrity through injecting working capital to safeguard employment enabling these businesses to survive the tough times and be able to continue to add value to the country’s GDP.
BOC employed relief schemes such as a moratorium on loans, re-structuring facilities, new low-cost systems and models to service customers, new opportunities to re-invest or hedge against fluctuations in the exchange rate and inflation, and innovative technology to expand its reach to all customers in both digital and physical forms of banking. Several new specialised units were introduced during this period to meet special requirements of the economy, such as developing entrepreneurship and motivating the export sector. They are namely; the Business Revival and Rehabilitation Unit (BRRU), Export Circle, SME Circle and Foreign Circle.
Sustainable growth has always been the Bank’s way of operating, and thus maintains a close interest on the wellbeing of its stakeholders. Committed as a good corporate citizen towards its community the Bank carried out initiatives to extend banking services through the mobile banking unit - the branch on wheels, during lockdown period, assisted to established an “on-call Covid -19” service for in-house patients in partnership with the Ministry of Health, and also conducted many philanthropic activities at provincial level to provide relief to the community.
Commitment towards sustainable growth and governance has been at the core of BOC’s business strategy. How important is this for the success of the bank and what are some initiatives being taken for the future?
Our journey for over eighty years has always been focused on sustainable growth and good governance, as it is a value that lies within our core purpose towards the country. Our success story is a true example of the principle that sustainable growth is the “way-to-go” for all corporate citizens.
Through developments over eighty years, the Bank has a highly inclusive sustainability structure that incorporates all aspects of its decision-making and operations that include - technology and innovation, reducing our carbon footprint and waste management, and enhancing value for stakeholders involved. The Bank complies with the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) as a standard of measurement of the quality of the Bank’s output. Altogether the Bank also embarked on the concept of “Green Banking”, connecting the entire structure and operations as a whole, with the aim of being environmentally conscious at every possible level.
BOC also ensures the safeguarding of its well-maintained brand trust by complying with established laws and regulations of the industry by regulators. We were able to actively engage with our stakeholders enabling us to enhance our overall value generation and build brand loyalty and trust with consistent impetus on our brand commitment towards all stakeholders.