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DateLine Sunday, 15 June 2008

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Bank of Ceylon nets Rs. 2,600m deposits in five months

Staff commitment, trust an impetus:



I. D. Weerasena
Pic: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

The Bank of Ceylon (BoC) during the past five months opened 410,000 savings accounts and collected Rs 2,600 mln as deposits due to the commitment of the staff and the trust placed by the people.

Deputy General Manager (Branches) BoC I.D Weerasena said that 80% of the accounts were opened by people in the rural areas and plans are under way to collect Rs 6 bln from this effort.

He said that at present the savings ratio is low in the country and ranges between 18-19% and this has resulted in low investments.

Weerasena said that the savings ratio should be increased to 25-30% to increase the investments.As we donít have the required savings our investments are low. Therefore, our country has to depend on foreign investments.

This is the reason we want to create the savings habit among Sri Lankans so that this in turn will help increase the investments done by locals.

Though we have many banks around the country around 35% of the population never patronise a bank for their financial needs instead, they fulfil their financial needs through other sources though the interest rates are much higher. This has resulted in the country recording a low growth rate.

According to him billions of rupees are in the hands of people mostly in the rural areas but it never comes to the financial system as they prefer to keep it with them.

Therefore, we have prepared targeted savings schemes to attract the idle money to the financial system by inculcating the savings habit among people in the rural areas.

The primary objective of the Gam Udana program is to ensure that all Sri Lankans have a bank account. Nobody can blame people in rural areas for not coming to the banks as most of the time they have to travel many miles to reach a bank. Therefore, they prefer to fulfil their financial needs in the village itself.

As a solution to accessability, the bank has already set up 305 extension offices while another 100 will be added within the next 15 months and 80% of these offices will be established in rural areas.

We will also add another 10 mobile units while 200 motor-cycles will be given to the branches to strengthen transport and provide an efficient service to the customers of the bank.

In addition the staff of the BoC do a voluntary service to educate the rural folk on savings and its benefits. This scheme was started in July last year and we are now reaping the benefits.

Weerasena said that though there are two million Sri Lankans working overseas they donít remit all their savings.

The bank has appointed agents in Europe, Canada, Singapore, Middle East and Korea to encourage the workers to send the earnings back home. The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) educates people leaving for jobs overseas and if they open an NRFC account with the BoC the bank adds US$ five to their account.

The bank has launched a scheme to open accounts for all people engaged in the tea sector as well as their children.

He said that though the bank provides scholarships and gifts to children who have accounts 80% of them are taken by the children who reside in the main districts.

Therefore, we are promoting the savings habit in the rural areas so that those children will also benefit from these schemes.

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