People’s Bank is a leading commercial bank in Sri Lanka that has recently bagged five prestigious awards including the Most Responsive Bank Sri Lanka 2022, the Best Consumer Digital Bank Sri Lanka 2022 and the Best Development Bank Sri Lanka 2022. Mr. Ranjith Kodituwakku, the CEO and General Manager of People’s Bank has been awarded the Banking CEO of the Year Sri Lanka 2022 and Mr. Sujeewa Rajapakse, the chairman of People’s Bank has been awarded the Banking Chairman of the Year Sri Lanka 2022.
With such a huge acclamation from The Asian Development Bank and other organizations, the People’s Bank has taken all the limelight in revolutionizing the banking industry of Sri Lanka in 2022. Mr. Ranjith Kodituwakku, who is holding the position of the CEO /General Manager of People’s Bank recently spoke to us about such a glorious series of achievements and how the journey has been throughout the pandemic and the challenges associated with the recent economic crisis. Also, he spoke to us about how the journey has been as a veteran banker who has been associated with People’s Bank since 1982 and about the venture of investment banking and how it’s benefitting the customers with digitalization.
Can you tell us about People’s Bank?
People’s Bank, which was established six decades ago with the objective of providing banking and financial services to the general public in Sri Lanka, is now one of the leading financial institutions in the country. Over the years, we have become a unique banking institution that has made significant contributions to the socio-economic development of the country.
Today, People’s Bank operates with 742 branches and service centres island wide and employing a staff of over 7500 to serve close to 14.5 million customers, making it the bank with the highest customer base and largest branch network in the country.
Owing to the pivotal role the People’s Bank plays in the country’s economy, it has been recognized as one of the four domestically systematically, important banks (D_SIBS) in Sri Lanka; by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
People’s Bank has recently celebrated its 60th Anniversary. How this journey has been?
Initially, People’s Bank’s main objectives were to develop the Co-operative and Rural Banking sector and move forward as a commercial bank. Today, our Bank has become a fully accredited national and internationally accredited banking institution providing a wide range of services such as Personal Banking, Enterprise Banking, and Corporate Banking as well as offering Treasury, Investment Banking Services and International Operations.
In the six decades of its history, People’s Bank has not only provided financial services to its customers but has also made significant contributions to the socio-economic progress of the country by providing financial assistance in the areas of exports, education, health, expressways, roads, tourism and infrastructure.
People’s Bank has also played an invaluable role in introducing the cutting edge technology and digital banking services to masses of the country. We have always focused on using state of the art technology to offer an enhanced customer experience by making banking quicker, easier and more efficient.
Can you tell us about the recent achievements of People’s Bank?
People’s Bank in recent past has recorded many significant achievements in terms of product development, profitability, innovation and growth.
People’s Bank was the first bank in the country to implement a complete digital transformation for the entire operating model, covering all aspects from the lowest to the highest levels of the Bank.
The bank’s Self Banking Units (SBUs) are a pioneering introduction to our digitalization program of which there are over 265 island wide. With ATMs, CDMs and bill payment machines (KIOSK) installed herein, you can experience convenient and efficient banking which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, all year round.
All of our branches now have instant access to People’s Wiz which enables quick account opening. Over a million people are registered with the People’s Wave app, which allows you to bank from anywhere. People’s Bank also launched the People’s Pay Mobile App in support of the Central Bank’s efforts to promote digital transactions without the use of cash. In addition, the People’s Website offers online banking and People’s Wiz Credit provides personal loans within 24 hours. We have won numerous local and international awards for digital banking.
In terms of profitability and balance sheet growth, following numbers speak volumes of what the bank has achieved in the recent past;
Number of customers digitally on-boarded (as at 31.12.2021) LKR 1.7 million
Digital deposit balance (as at 31.12.2021) LKR 271.8 billion
Average monthly transactions conducted through “People’s Wave” app LKR 1.1 million
Total value creation for government (during the year 2021) LKR 16.3 billion
Customer touch points outside Western province 1,405
Profit before tax for the year 2021 LKR 30.4 billion
Profit after tax for the year 2021 LKR 23.7 billion
Total Assets as at 31.12.2021 LKR 2,648 billion
Gross loans and receivables as at 31.12.2021 LKR 1,937 billion
Total Depositsas at 31.12.2021 LKR 2,072 billion
Brand value LKR 44.75 billion, rating AAA-
Ranked amongst top 10 most admired companies in Sri Lanka.
People’s Bank has been recognized as The Most Responsive Bank in Sri Lanka 2022. What are the key factors that were behind this success?
People’s Bank true to its name has always been a Bank for the people, by the people. Hence whenever a need arose, People’s Bank has been quick to respond to support nation’s economy.
The covid 19 pandemic is but one such instance when People’s Bank stepped in to revive the economy which had been badly hampered by lockdowns and border closures. The complete halt in economic activity naturally meant adverse consequences on the lives and livelihoods of our individual customers and liquidity constraints for our corporate and institutional customers. In this context supporting our stakeholders in their time of need was our national calling to which we responded with great honor, pride, dignity and exemplary commitment and delivery. The key factors that have always helped us perform the aforementioned role effectively are our skilled team, product range, superior technology and nation minded outlook towards business.
The Best Consumer Digital Bank in Sri Lanka 2022 is People’s Bank. How this achievement has been shaped?
The Banks digital journey commenced in 2015 with the idea of empowering customers in rural areas and bridging the digital divide, as well as catering to millennial and retaining the future generations as customers. The goal was to achieve straight through processing to provide service excellence to the Banks customers.
To achieve this, the bank took multi-pronged initiatives, implementing Digital Banking Platform to enable end to end digital engagement, including the development of Digital Omni-channels. Since then, People’s Bank’s digitalization drive has witnessed a number of ground-breaking digital initiatives being launched in the local market. The Bank is the pioneer to launch Self-Banking Units (SBUs), a unique concept consisting of ATMs, Cash Deposit Machines (CDMs) and Kiosk machines enabling customers to Bank at their convenience.
The bank was also the first Bank in Sri Lanka to launch the Digital Omni Productsnamely: Digital On-boarding, Internet Banking, Mobile Banking and Loan Origination System (LOS) for retail and corporate customers, which provided the foundation for integrated digital services.
Underscoring the bank’s success in championing digital banking in Sri Lanka, People’s Bank was recognized multiple times locally and globally including the ‘Best Digital Bank’ at the Asia money Best Bank Awards 2019 & 2020, ‘Best Consumer Digital Bank’ and ‘Best Mobile Banking App’ at the World Finance Digital Banking Awards 2020, ‘Best Digital Bank’ at the International Business Magazine Awards 2020 and “Best Mobile Electronic Payment Initiative 2021 ” (People’s Wave) at the AFTA awards to name few. The Bank was also awarded many more rewards for its journey through out which are included in the attachment – ‘PB Awards 2018-2020.
People’s Bank was also conferred with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification which is the world’s highest accreditation for information protection and security.
People’s Bank has been selected as the Best Development Bank Sri Lanka 2022. How do you think this success was possible?
Since the inception, People’s Bank’s main focus was on developing the rural banking system and uplifting the people.
Even today, this focus remains unchanged within the bank. If you take the recent times, the Agriculture-Based Harvest Loan Scheme, which was introduced to create a self-sufficient country, has provided Rs.2.3 billion over a period of 15 months ending 31 December 2021 alone. We introduced loan schemes such as ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ to promote local industries, ‘Saarabhoomi’ to encourage local production of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, ‘Vanitha Saviya’ for empowering women entrepreneurs, and ‘Business Power’ to uplift small and medium enterprises.
People’s Bank has also launched the People’s Spark Entrepreneurship Development Program with the aim of empowering Sri Lankan youth who are passionate about running their own business. Recently, we conducted a six-day workshop for selected young people covering various fields related to entrepreneurship with the involvement of local business professionals and university lecturers. We will then review the business plan prepared by them and, if appropriate, take steps to provide a loan of up to Rs.2.5 million without any security.
Hence the main factor that paved the way to be selected as the Best Development Bank Sri Lanka 2022 is our focus and commitment to build the nation through developing local entrepreneurship.
You have been awarded as the Banking CEO of the Year Sri Lanka 2022. Can you tell us about your journey as a banker and your association with People’s Bank?
Witnessing first-hand the transformation of People’s Bank over the last four decades has been awe-inspiring. I joined the bank in 1982 to a junior position at its branch in Kandy.
A long association has endeared us all to People’s Bank and its mission. Importantly, watching the bank being challenged, and how it has responded to the challenges by evolving, adapting and growing has been truly rewarding.
Today the bank has a leadership team and a board of directors who appreciate the legacy and the responsibility of the institution to be aligned with the founding objectives and also be relevant for the future of Sri Lanka.
Many things have changed in the four decades since my association with People’s Bank commenced. In those years Sri Lanka’s economy has transformed from beginning to industrialise and link with global markets to one that is now service-led and well-integrated with global supply chains.
How is the experience of having been associated with Mr. Sujeewa Rajapakse?
My relationship with Mr. Sujeewa Rajapakse has been one of mutual respect and professionalism. As a leading professional in the country with an enormous experience and credibility, his perspectives on matters of strategic importance have always proved to be beneficial to me and the bank. Also, his strong commitment to uphold highest level of standards and governance guidelines has helped us immensely.
What are the milestones that People’s bank has achieved since its inception in 1961?
Milestones of the People’s Bank
1961 – 1979
Started in 1961 and during the period from 1961 to 1969, a total of 106 new bank branches were opened by all Banks Island wide, and of those 83 belonged to People’s Bank. Eight years after its founding, People’s Bank had become the commercial bank with the largest branch network. Expansion of branches happened in the rural and estate sectors as well.
People’s Bank was the first to make services accessible in Sinhala and Tamil for its customers.
In 1981 People’s Bank was able to decentralization of operations with commencement of Regional Offices.
Pioneer lender to the small farming sector with the initiation of the Agriculture Credit Scheme.
Launch of the first Fisheries Bank in Koralawella.
Introduction of the Black Light System
Head Quarters branch becomes the Bank’s first fully – automated branch
1990 – 1999
Launch of People’s Visa card in association with Visa International.
First ATM installed at the Head Quarters Branch.
People’s Automated Banking System (PABS), a banking application developed in-house, commences live operations.
2000 – 2009
Introduction of the Central ATM switch.
Introduction of Palmtop Banking.
First Debenture issue of Rs. 2.5 billion.
Introduction of “People’s e-Remittance”, a web-based remittance product.
2010 – 2019
Launched People’s International VISA Debit Card.
Opening of the first SME business centre in Anuradhapura.
First bank to be correlated to the National Common ATM switch.
Introduction of “Migrant Debit Card” in partnership with the foreign employment bureau.
Corporate customers were provided with an online real-time payment facility for EPF, ETF and Customs Duty.
Mobile Banking facilities extended to Sri Lankan migrants.
Initiation of a holistic digital banking approach to increase efficiency and customer service.
Upgraded POS infrastructure by introducing the latest POS hardware.
Launch of Sri Lanka’s first ever Green Banking initiative under “YES” brand.
Launch of Self-Banking Units with ATM/CDM/KIOSK
Opening of Sri Lanka’s first fully digitalized bank branch in Colombo.
Enhancing the Bank’s digital dominance with the launch of People’s Wave-mobile banking app, People’s Web Internet banking portal, People’s Wiz-express banking, People’s Wyn- Internet banking and mobile app for corporate clients, RLOS –Retail Loan Origination System and CLOS- Corporate Loan Originating system.
Opening of first ever School Banking unit with Cash Deposit Machine at Ananda College.
People’s Bank card system upgraded from a prime 2 system to a prime 3 system.
Launch of People’s Bank Premium Card.
Introduction of “People’s Elegence” to premier customers.
Introduction of the People’s Bank QR payment facility, People’s pay QR.
First state bank to accept Finger-Print for pensioner verification.
How difficult has been for you to manage operational risks during and after Covid-19 as the CEO of Sri Lanka’s largest physical and digital bank?
The pandemic and resulting lockdowns and restrictions during both 2020 and 2021 had a massive impact on both local and global economies. The third wave of the pandemic in April 2021 had a considerable impact of the pace of economic recovery of Sri Lanka. It dealt a severe blow to key foreign exchange earning sectors: resulting in a drastic decline in foreign exchange inflow to the country.
We had to find innovative and nimble ways to ensure that banking services were accessible to general public despite unprecedented lockdowns that were necessitated by the pandemic. To achieve this without compromising on operational risk controls, we resorted to innovative technology, out of the box thinking and collective experience of our staff. As a result we managed to keep branches open 70% of the time, encourage customers to use electronic channels and use mobile banking vehicles to provide an uninterrupted service.
How do you plan to carry out this success in the years ahead?
To continue on our journey in the coming years, there are many things which we must overcome. No matter how daunting the tasks at hand may seem, nothing is beyond our collective reach and capability. Continuously improving productivity, and cost efficiency, Bank-wide is one aspect and key focus. Further the focus is on further strengthening our core Banking units and leveraging our strengths so we can serve the country better whilst continues enhancing the customer experience, through the use of technology amongst others, and the customer engagement.
As the bank of the People, our first responsibility is to our customers. Serving them, supporting them and keeping them prosperous is a core part of our duty as a national bank.