Business News Sri Lanka: The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has won two prestigious international awards –‘Best Bank for Small and Medium Enterprises’ and ‘Best Bank for Corporate Social Responsibility’ — from Asiamoney Magazine, known as the voice of the banking and capital markets industries in Asia.
The award for ‘Best Bank for SMEs’ recognises Commercial Bank’s efforts in identifying the importance of small and medium enterprises to the economy of the country and the products and services put in place to empower this segment, while the ‘Best Bank for Corporate Social Responsibility’ award is a tribute to the Bank’s nationally-significant contributions via its CSR Trust, to the spheres of education, healthcare, environment and community development. The Trust had completed over 480 projects by the end of September 2019 with an investment of Rs 500 million.
As part of its focus on small and medium enterprises, Commercial Bank launched an SME Banking Transformation in 2019 with the expertise of a foreign consultancy firm to turbo-charge sales with the right credit operation. The aim was to achieve exponential annual growth in SME lending and to be the best-in-market on credit processes.
The total SME Loans portfolio of the Bank had grown by substantial value over that of the previous year. Other factors that contributed to the SME award included the introduction of SME Managers to each region who were responsible of promoting SME businesses; the introduction of ‘Divisaru’ – a special savings account designed to support micro entrepreneurs and promote financial inclusivity; and the operation of ‘Biz Clubs’ that provide extensive networking opportunities, new business opportunities, and support beyond lending to over 2600 small and medium entrepreneurs of the country. Under this initiative the Bank had approved ‘Biz Loans’ amounting to Rs 8.6 billion and disbursed funds amounting to Rs 7.2 billion in the past year.
The Bank’s 17 Agriculture and Micro Finance Units and its ‘Bank of Wheels’ initiative to introduce banking to the unbanked, rural population of the country were also considered for the award.
In the sphere of corporate social responsibility, Commercial Bank’s largest contribution is towards IT education in Sri Lanka. The Bank has donated over 190 fully-equipped IT laboratories to schools island-wide to date and is a partner to the ‘Smart Schools Project’ helping to introduce a comprehensive Learning Management System (LMS) to 65 schools in the Western Province. Syllabuses for the subjects of Mathematics, Science, and English for the Ordinary Level examination and Biology, Double Mathematics and Chemistry for the Advanced Level were converted into a digital format with the Bank’s support during the year assessed for the CSR award, and E learning workshops conducted for over 5,000 teachers. The Bank is also funding projects to set up math labs in schools and to enhance vocational training opportunities for students that do not qualify for higher education.
Uplifting healthcare services in the country by donating critical care equipment to six hospitals in 2019, facilitating the consumption of clean water to prevent Chronic Kidney Disease of an unknown origin (CKDu) in affected areas, funding the establishing of a puppet museum in Balapitiya to encourage local traditions, conducting tree planting drives in over 80 schools in the country, support to a project to restore mangrove habitats in the South, and promoting eco-friendly practices among clients are among the other CSR activities of the Bank.
The first Sri Lankan Bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for nine years consecutively, Commercial Bank is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Bank, which won more than 50 international and local awards in 2019, operates a network of 268 branches and 865 ATMs in Sri Lanka.
Commercial Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Representative Office in Yangon and a Microfinance company in Nay PyiTaw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.