Jan 12, Colombo: The Commercial Bank of Ceylon provided new concessionary lending of nearly Rs 30 billion in 2020, its centenary year, to help Sri Lankans weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and ended the year as the most generous lender among the country’s private banks.
This high volume of concessionary loans was in addition to the relief the Bank granted to customers in the form of debt, capital or interest moratoriums on a staggering 81,387 existing loans with a capital outstanding of Rs 443 billion as well as repayment of outstanding credit card balances, the Bank disclosed this week.
“We began the year on a celebratory note, with an ambitious portfolio of community initiatives to commemorate our 100-year history, but it soon became evident that we would have to play a far more urgent and vital role to underwrite the survival of people and businesses impacted by the effects of the pandemic,” Commercial Bank Managing Director S. Renganathan said. “We are proud to end the year as the leading provider of COVID-19 linked concessionary loans among the private banks, and the process continues.”
The total of Rs 29.6 billion in COVID-19 support loans disbursed by the Bank as at 30th December 2020 under multiple relief schemes to provide working capital loans to pandemic affected businesses included loans provided under the Central Bank mandated program as well as the Bank’s own support schemes.
Under the working capital loan scheme titled ‘Saubagya COVID-19 Renaissance facility’ launched by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Commercial Bank registered 5,637 applications with a total value of Rs 28 billion over the three phases of the program and disbursed 5,387 loans with a value of Rs 26.6 billion at the close of 2020. Notably, Commercial Bank disbursed the highest loan value within a short period during the first wave of the pandemic, and disbursed Rs 2.8 billion, Rs 17.7 billion and Rs 6.1 billion respectively under Phases I, II and III of the program. Moreover, the Bank lent another Rs 1.4 billion under the Liquidity Facility for Contractors in the construction sector and other suppliers to the government.
Commercial Bank also funded two other special loan schemes of its own, one for SMEs affected by COVID-19 and the other the ‘Dirishakthi COVID-19 Support Loan’ scheme to assist micro enterprises disrupted by the pandemic. The Bank lent Rs 1.4 billion via 102 loans to help small and medium businesses and Rs 34 million via 313 loans to micro enterprises under these bank-funded loan schemes.
Taking on the mantle of the driving force in economic recovery in the post-pandemic period, the Bank grouped 12 different schemes implemented for affected businesses and individuals under the umbrella of the ‘Arunella’ Financial Support Scheme and extended these relief programs beyond the mandated debt moratorium. These concessions included flexible payment options, up to 20% rebates on accrued interest during the moratorium periods, extension of moratorium periods for up to another six months, further reductions on Credit Card repayments and applicable interest rates, and Debt Consolidation Plans.
Commercial Bank became the first private bank in Sri Lanka to surpass Rs 1.5 trillion in assets, Rs 1 trillion in deposits, and Rs 900 billion in loans in 2020. The Bank also introduced several innovative products and services such as the upgraded online banking platform ‘ComBank Digital’ with multiple new and enhanced features, a trilingual multi-channel Integrated Contact Centre, and QR-enabled payment option for Credit Cards for the first time in the country and also introduced WhatsApp Banking for the first time in Sri Lanka.
The Bank also completed a landmark private equity placement with IFC in 2020. It launched CBC Finance Ltd., its fully owned Licensed Non-bank Finance Institution (NBFI) and installed its 250th Cash Recycler Machine (CRM) by the end of 2020, taking its network of automated machines to 905. The Bank increased its stake in Commercial Insurance Brokers, and its subsidiary CBC Myanmar Microfinance Ltd. expanded its operations by opening a branch in Pyinmana.
In the sphere of CSR initiatives, Commercial Bank donated Rs 10 million to the National COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund and joined forces with the Sri Lankan Army’s ‘Thuru Mithuru’ project focused on driving Sri Lanka towards self-sufficiency in essential food. Marching on with its contribution towards IT education in Sri Lanka, the Bank donated its 200th fully-equipped IT laboratory and set up Coding Clubs in 50 schools and initiated a project to established 100 STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) classrooms in 100 schools as part of its 100-year celebrations. The Bank has also pledged to reforest 100 hectares of land in the dry zone of Sri Lanka to mark its centenary.
The concluded year saw the Bank winning 25 international and local awards including being listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World for the 10th successive year by The Banker Magazine, UK – the only local bank to achieve such a feat – being adjudged the Best Bank in Sri Lanka in 2020 by Global Finance Magazine USA as well as Euromoney, being named the Best Bank for SMEs and the Best Bank for CSR by AsiaMoney, being ranked No 1 in the Business Today’s Top 30 corporates and conglomerates in the country, and being voted the Most Respected Bank for the 16th consecutive year by LMD as well as achieving the top position in the ‘Most Awarded 2019/20 Hall of Fame’ published by LMD Magazine.