The country's six regional development banks were merged into a single Regional Development Bank which will be known as RDB, as a measure to empower and uplift the lives of all Sri Lankans with a special focus on the SME sector. The six regional banks, which were amalgamated, were namely, Rajarata, Ruhuna, Wayamba, Uva, Kadurata and Sabaragamuwa Development Banks. The new entity already boasts of a strong asset base of Rs. 42 billion and an islandwide network of 251 branches, which will be further strengthened in the coming months.
Ms. Janaki Kuruppu, Chairperson of RDB and Mr. Rathnasiri Siriwardane, GM/CEO of RDB during the press conference following the opening of the new Head Office of the Regional Development Bank
The Bank's Head Office in Colombo was declared open by Dr. P B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Planning and Secretary to the Treasury. Speaking during the occasion, Dr. P. B. Jayasundera expressed his gratitude to the Chairperson, the CEO, Directors and staff of the Regional Development Bank for taking the initiative to establish the Bank, which would help empower the rural poor. He added, "Our aim is to go beyond Colombo."
The merger was done in keeping with the Pradeshiya Sanwardena Bank Act No 41 of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
With the amalgamation, the Bank, aims to further solidify its presence and strengthen its activities. The amalgamation will also help meet the Central Bank capital requirement, reduce geographical risks involved in provincial banks and provide a host of other benefits to customers. New products will also be launched in the foreseeable future. A 100% government-owned Bank, the amalgamation will also increase the Bank's financial stability and enable it to venture into new activities.
Expressing his views on the significance of the move, Mr. Rathnasiri Siriwardane, GM/CEO of RDB said that the primary focus of the Bank would be at the regional level. Although the new RDB head office will be located in Colombo, the Bank aims to provide facilities to help uplift the social and economic conditions of the rural poor, who are its main customers.
"We will be focusing especially on regional development activities, and measures will be taken aimed at inculcating savings habits among the rural people, providing good return on deposits and savings, encouraging school children and minors to save money and above all to empower the poor by encouraging them to start income generating activities," Mr. Siriwardane explained.
The customers will greatly benefit from an efficient and speedy service, explained Ms. Janaki Kuruppu, Chairperson of RDB. "For example, we will be able to invest in infrastructure and IT as one entity, rather than as six individual banks. In addition, we also aim to look into human resources training and capacity building. Better infrastructure facilities will result in a enhanced service, better human resources means an efficient and customer-friendly service and through better marketing the Bank will be able to introduce new and innovative products and services designed to meet the customer's need at the national level," Ms. Kuruppu added.
"Our aim is to make the Bank approachable and affordable. Currently, we are focusing on streamlining our existing portfolio of products, however new products will be announced in the near future," she said of the future plans.
With six provincial offices and 10 district offices and 236 branch offices, the bank employs over 2,300 well-trained personnel. Services will also be expanded to the Northern and Eastern provinces as well.
Ms. Kuruppu further explained that with the banks, having being in operation for over 25 years, it has been able to build customer trust and a solid customer base, especially where the grassroots are concerned.
The banks were established as Regional Rural Development Banks (RRDBs) in 1985, with one for each district, except in the North and East. The banks came under the purview of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and the primary objective was the development of the area in which the bank was in operation.
The RRDBs provided development oriented lending facilities, concessionary loan facilities under micro-finance and more income generating facilities. Under a Parliament Act passed in 1997, Regional Development Banks were formed for each province by amalgamating two or three district RRDBs in a province. The banks received their traditional provincial names.
"At a time when Sri Lanka is stepping into an era of growth and property, to develop the country further and accelerate growth, we need to develop each region. For this, we need to develop the people in those regions, help them set up various income-generating activities. Therefore, our focus will be to continue developing these regions by empowering small and medium entrepreneurs in all of the key economic sectors of the country and pave the way for making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia", Ms. Kuruppu stated.