Sri Lanka's state owned banking giant, Bank of Ceylon (BOC) is to extend its wings as an international bank with an ambitious plan of diverting its already increased banking business activities to a whole new global platform and to bring more foreign remittances to the country, a top official of the bank said.
A fully fledged world banking system will be devised through the setting up of more Exchange Houses and placing Representatives in Canada, Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Cyprus, Singapore and Europe with the availability of funds.
|P.A. Lionel, BOC Deputy General Manager (International, Treasury and Investment)
Another branch will be opened in Chennai, in addition to the existing branch and Exchange Centres in the Middle East, South Korea, Israel, Italy and France will be strengthened and their overseas staff strength expanded to mobilize enhancement of inward remittances and the ATM network extended said P.A. Lionel, BOC Deputy General Manager (International, Treasury and Investment) in an interview with Sunday Times. BoC is exploring the possibilities of positioning its UK subsidiary in the Euro Zone countries, where a large number of Sri Lankan diaspora live, to mobilize deposits and inward remittances.
"Last year there was US$ 5.1 billion of inward remittances coming to the country and out of this, 43% amounting to around US$2.1 billion was remitted through BOC, while intending to increase Foreign Currency deposit base by 20%" said Mr. Lionel. "We need to encourage people to save more and this will not only benefit them, but the country as a whole where it is on a development path.
Sri Lanka has a need for more remittances and the Bank of Ceylon is a vehicle to facilitate this process," he added.
In order to draw in more foreign remittances, Bank of Ceylon launched its NRFC Draw and Cash Remits competition, aimed at rewarding and encouraging savings of expatriate workers/professionals. This scheme would also provide the opportunity to increase foreign reserves in the country, he disclosed. He also emphasized the importance of having adequate foreign reserves to fast track the growth of the economy in the new age of development of the country.
"With regard to inward remittances, the issue that banks face today is that whatever foreign currency that is sent to Sri Lanka is changed into rupees by the recipients and only 5% to 10% of that money remains in the NRFC accounts" he said. "Therefore, it is essential to encourage people to keep foreign currency in their NRFC accounts" he added.
He revealed that the NRFC Wasana Draw and Cash Remits competitions would give additional rewards for NRFC account holders and would hopefully enable the expansion of the country's foreign reserve base.
This year through NRFC Wasana Draw and Cash Remits competition, two prizes of one million, 40 prizes of Rs. 50,000 and 60 prizes of Rs. 25,000 are up for grabs by two super draws,. In addition, 50 prizes of Rs. 10,000 each would be awarded every month to NRFC account holders in a monthly draw.
At the same time, a special draw has been started by the Bank of Ceylon this year, for our customers who receive foreign remittances sent from foreign countries via BoC E CASH, Telex and SWIFT although they haven't opened an (NRFC) account. This has been named as CASH REMITTS draw. Under this scheme 25 persons who receive foreign remittances via the above channel, will receive 25 cash prizes at Rs.10,000 each and the total number of prizes allocated is 250.
This draw will be held monthly covering all the provinces, giving away 20 prizes as all island and five prizes for the province in which the draw is held.
NRFC (Non Residential Foreign Currency) which had been introduced to Sri Lanka for the first time by Bank of Ceylon in 1977 is now a unique account which has won the trust of Sri Lankans working in foreign countries at present. The most special fact is that Bank of Ceylon has the largest share of 33% of the NRFC deposit market. The foreign representative network worldwide has now spread to countries like France, Italy, Japan, Israel, Korea as well as to the Middle East.
By quoting very attractive rates for NRFC and RFC deposits BoC endeavours to encourage savings among expatriates. Bank of Ceylon has provided the facility to send money of Sri Lankan Foreign expatriates instantly to those who are closest to them and their NRFC accounts through more than 2,400 worldwide banks and Exchange Houses, Xpress Money, Money Gram, Ez Remit, Coinstar, SWIFT, as well as a unique product of the Bank of Ceylon the BoC E Cash play a main role among them. Therefore, to motivate the account holders, Bank of Ceylon has implemented a new gift scheme carrying prizes worth millions of rupees, Mr. Lionel revealed.
The BOC is the pioneer of Inward Remittance business in Sri Lanka and its Inward Remittances Dept. is the center for receiving Inward Remittances from Banks and Exchange Houses worldwide which is well equipped and linked with all branches to extend a prompt service to customers.
Well connected with all parts of the world through over 800 correspondents worldwide, recipients can receive their remittances easily through 569 payment locations (318 main branches and 251 Extension Offices) spread in every nook and corner of the island, Mr. Lionel added. Nearly 1000 service points will facilitate steady flow of remittances to beneficiaries.
He further elaborated that BOC being the No.1 bank in Sri Lanka wants to globalize banking activities to be an international bank and during the last 10 years they have been raising funds through syndicated loans internationally for short term tenure. Further last April BoC took another step forward by issuing US Dollar Bonds to the amount of USD 500 Million with overwhelming success.
He added that as BoC wants to provide Commercial Banking facilities and Investment Banking facilities under one umbrella, last year BoC started an Investment Banking arm enhancing their investment banking activities. This Investment Banking arm will cater to the segment by providing Portfolio Management Services, Advisory Services, Structuring Debt Instruments, providing Trustee and Custodial Services. This Unit was able to structure the largest Debenture issue of Rs. 10 Billion in Sri Lanka for the Urban Development Authority.