The People’s Bank is revolutionizing Sri Lanka’s banking sector

Ranjith Kodituwakku

The People’s Bank is a public commercial bank which was established in 1961 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It offers banking services to individuals and businesses with the aim of contributing to the quality of life, business development and the national economy. Ranjith Kodituwakku, a veteran banker who joined People’s Bank in 1982, has served as CEO and Managing Director since 2020.

Ranjith recently spoke with Wanda Rich, Editor-in-Chief of Global Banking & Finance Review, about the bank’s venture into investment banking, how it overcame the challenges of the past two years, and the how its customers benefit from its significant investment in digitization.

Can you tell us about People’s Bank and how it ventured into investment banking?

In July 2021, Banque Populaire celebrated its 60th anniversary. For more than 60 years, the bank has enjoyed a strong reputation for digital leadership, strong performance, leadership and sustainable growth. It has gone to great lengths to understand its customers and has revolutionized the Sri Lankan banking industry by deploying new technologies and innovative products. This approach has allowed the bank to acquire a customer base of more than 14 million people, the largest in the country.

The People’s Bank Investment Banking Unit (PBIBU) was established within the bank’s treasury in 2011, to focus on the country’s rapidly growing economy and its capital markets, both of debt and stock. Since the beginning, we have successfully completed 30 debenture issues, in which we managed to generate more rupees. 150 billion to issuers.

What are the services provided by the investment banking unit?

Our services are extensive and include financing and advisory services, initial public offerings, debt structuring, fixed income trading, loan syndications, custodial services, fiduciary services and securitization . Thanks to the synergies of our group and the strength of the bank, PBIBU was able to establish itself in the capital market as one of the best and most innovative solution providers in a short period of time.

Are there any notable transactions you are particularly proud of?

Yes – 2021 has been a remarkable year for PBIBU, during which it was able to achieve several key milestones in the investment banking industry. One such feat was structuring the largest non-bank listed bond issue ever for LOLC Holdings PLC, for LKR 10,000 million. In addition, PBIBU managed the largest listed bond issue by a public entity in Sri Lanka for Ceylon Electricity Board – LKR 20,000 – and the largest listed bond issue by a non-financial institution. bank for People’s Leasing & Finance PLC – LKR 10,000 million.

The past year has been full of challenges for markets and
economy. How did the Banque Populaire manage operational risk during this period?

The pandemic and resulting lockdowns and restrictions in 2020 and 2021 have had a massive impact on local and global economies. It dealt a severe blow to major foreign exchange earning sectors, leading to a drastic drop in foreign exchange inflows into the country, undermined exchange rate stability and further undermined investor and lender confidence.

The combination of these circumstances put the bank and its employees under enormous pressure. He put our commitment, our digital capabilities, our customer focus and our overall ability to deliver to the ultimate test. Nonetheless, we have continued to serve, keeping over 70% of our branches open even at the height of the lockdown, and providing over Rs. 800 billion in funding over the stricken twenty-four month period. by the pandemic.

How was Banque Populaire’s investment in digital channels supported
customers’ banking experience during this period?

In recent years, the People’s Bank has established the largest customer base in the country with over 14 million people and built a digital network that has penetrated deep into rural areas. In 2021, the registered user base for retail online banking and mobile banking devices exceeded one million. The development of self-banking units (SBUs), consisting of ATMs, CDMs and kiosks, has enabled customers to conduct their banking transactions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In 2021, our island network of ATMs, CDMs and self-service kiosks facilitated 82.6 million transactions worth over Rs. 1.2 trillion.

People’s Wiz, the bank’s dematerialized digital solution for account opening, recorded the integration of 1.7 million customers. That’s more than triple the number in 2020. People’s Wave, the bank’s mobile banking app, has become the most downloaded banking app in the country with more than one million active users. People’s Wyn, the mobile app for businesses, registered 7,220 customers, more than three times the number in 2020.

The bank’s digital loan processing service, People’s Wiz Retail Loan Originating System (RLOS), revolutionized the loan origination process and enabled the bank to disburse personal loans within 24 hours with minimal documentation.

During the year, the bank introduced several innovative products and features. One was the People’s Pay Wallet app, a payment solution bundled with lifestyle features. The bank has also incorporated features such as anti-money laundering technology into the digital account opening process and real-time gross settlement in its business internet banking. The People’s Bank also became the first and only bank in Sri Lanka to be accredited with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, the highest international accreditation for information protection and security.

How do you see the way forward for the coming year?

We expect 2022 to be another challenging year. We will continue to focus on our strengths, our good financial performance, our digital dynamism and our quality of service. However, due to the issues and problems in the economy as a whole, we can foresee a variety of challenges. With our focus, commitment and product portfolio, we’re poised to meet – and, as we most often do, exceed – customer expectations. Banque Populaire will also focus on providing a portfolio of investment banking products and services.

Despite the macroeconomic volatilities, we plan to continue our journey in 2022 with optimism, ambition and vigour, aiming to achieve higher goals and targets.

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