Q: How does Pan Asia Banking Cor- poration (Pan Asia Bank) view the banking sector’s evolution beyond COVID-19?
A: Banks play a major role in supporting the government’s relief measures – viz. morato- riums and loan schemes for those affected by the pandemic. They will also have to expend greater effort to stimulate an economic recovery.
Digitalisation will be an important driver of growth for the sector going forward, which is evident in how Pan Asia Bank has facilitated digital transactions for customers during the pandemic.
We expect to leverage digitalisation and automation to enhance customer service, exercise cost controls, and streamline collection and recov- ery proceeds.
At Pan Asia Bank, we’re focussed on heightened produc- tivity rather than expansion to become even more sustain- able.
Q: And how have businesses been impacted by the pandemic?
A: Sri Lanka’s economy has proved to be resilient follow- ing multiple shocks over the years. However, the impact of the pandemic was perhaps too soon after the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, weakening the economy signifi- cantly.
While 2020 was a high pressure year for the economy and business in general, I see faint traces of a recovery in some sectors although much will depend on how we con- trol the pandemic this year.
Pan Asia Bank was able to overcome the negative impacts due to the speedy adoption of countermeasures and prudent lending strategies. We succeeded in recording healthy growth while maintaining net non-performing assets (NPAs) at a good level.
But the slowdown in economic activities – especially tourism, trade, transport, imports, construction and other SME businesses – significantly impacted many of our customers in these sectors.
Q: What is your opinion on the working from home (WFH) con- cept?
A: Over the last 12 months, all industries have experienced the pros and cons of WFH. I believe that every organisation should adopt a hybrid model of WFH and working out of the office as it suits the busi- ness model.
There is no denying that WFH can provide important advantages such as lower costs, greater flexibility to retain women in the workforce and so on.
Q: What are the bank’s priorities in the coming months?
A: We plan to focus on efficient recoveries and enhanced customer service along with better credit quality. Our responsible growth strategy includes managing risk well, and using our influence in renewable energy financing to encourage a low carbon and sustainable economy.
Going forward, we will drive our Sammana loans scheme, which posted substantial growth last year. Our gold loans are also witnessing a positive trend.
Meanwhile, Pan Asia Bank recorded impressive financial results last year. The regulator’s pressure to reduce lending rates is tantamount to pressuring banks to reduce deposit rates, which will put us on a level playing field. We also repriced deposit rates quicker than our competitors, help- ing us maintain a decent net interest margin (NIM).
Q: How is the bank supporting the SME sector?
A: Pan Asia Bank’s identity as ‘the Truly Sri Lankan Bank’ inspires us to cater to the urgent needs of customers and society, and will drive green lending this year to enhance SMEs’ sustainability.
Last year, we organised a series of webinars to help more than 250 SMEs understand strategies for a post-pandemic world.
Pan Asia Bank was also the proud recipient of the first US$ 7.8 million green bond launched by Swiss-based Symbiotic, which will be utilised to support and promote local agriculture, with an emphasis on encouraging the use of indigenous seeds, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects
Additionally, the bank was recognised as the runner-up in the ‘Product Innovation’ category at Infosys Finacle’s Client Innovation Awards 2020. Recently, Pan Asia Bank was ranked among Business Today’s TOP 30 for 2019/20 and conferred the title of ‘Best Green Bank Sri Lanka 2020’ at the Global Banking & Finance Awards 2020.
As a truly Sri Lankan bank, we are committed to driving a greener future for the nation and its people. Pan Asia Bank is geared to leverage its local and global recognition to support sustainable projects for a brighter tomorrow.
We look forward to a brighter 2021 as it coincides with the bank’s 25th anniversary of serving customers with innovative and unique financial products and services.