Our long and beautiful History
‘Sri Lanka’s Best Bank’ has a rich history of banking in the country, dating back to before it even won independence. The birth of Com Bank dates back to the 1920s’ – during the British colonial period – during which trade, commerce and enterprises opened up, and thrived..
In 1969, Commercial Bank of Ceylon gathered momentum, becoming a totally independent entity and, beginning an unbroken, and unprecedented, tradition of excellence in service that has continued to what it is today -- to be acclaimed the Best Bank in Sri Lanka.
Portray of the roots
In 1920, The Eastern Bank opened a branch at Chatham Street, Colombo little realising they were laying the foundation to what was to become a byword in Sri Lankan banking. As businesses thrived under the Donourmough constitutional reforms, in 1939, they moved to the heart of the premier business area at 57, Sir Baron Jayatilleke Mawatha, Colombo.
After gaining independence in 1948, trade continued toflourish and as a consequence, the share capital of Eastern Bank Ltd was acquired by the Chartered Bank in 1957. A decade later, in 1969, Commercial Bank of Ceylon was duly incorporated in Ceylon, with the Eastern Bank holding 40% of its equity, before being taken over in 1971, by the Chartered Bank.
Expansion of the corporate business
After the second Constitution was adpoted in 1978, and under a liberalised economy, offshore banking was established, andin 1979 Commercial Bank opened its first Foreign Currency Banking Unit to promote off-shore banking business.
The bank made a significant move when in the 1980, despite being the height of social unrest, it moved its base of operations to a more centralised location, a newly constructed head office branded as the ‘Commercial House’ at 21 Bristol Street, Colombo. Then, in 1985, the status of the Foreign Department of the Bank was elevated to that of a fully-fledged branch and completed the reorganisation process. Now the City Office, Foreign Branch and Head Office segregate the different operations of the Bank.
Towards the end of that decade business expanded with two associate companies – Commercial Insurance services (Pvt.) Ltd and Commercial Leasing Ltd – being formed. Another associate company was to be added in 1991, Commercial Stock Brokers (Pvt. Ltd), commencing operations with the bank owning 40% equity participation. The following year, Commercial Fund Management (Pvt.) Ltd. was formed for the purpose of operating unit trusts where the bank enjoyed 50% equity participation. In 1996, the bank increased its shareholding in Commercial Development Company Ltd. (an independent entity, dealing in property development) to 94.55% by means of a share swap.
1999 marked another significant event in Commercial Bank’s history, when banking and retail combined, for the opening of the very first ‘Mini-Com’ at the Cargills Food City outlet in Staple Street. Then in 2005, Commercial Bank raised US $65 million two-year syndicated loan with the option to extend it further for another year at the option of the lender. This was the first such loan given to a non-sovereign corporate in the country. The Bank made a scrip issue on the basis of 1:1 in 2006 and also successfully raised US $10 million by issuing five-year bonds. This was another first for an indigenous bank in Sri Lanka. In 2003, it ventured into overseas markets, when it took over operations of Credit Agricole Indoseuz in Bangladesh – its first overseas foray.
Extending the Island wide reach
Commercial Bank with it rapid expansion of Branches and Service Points, reached out to every vicinity in the urban side and the periphery, to become one of the country’s most renown banking services, with ease of access.
Adopting the latest technology
Commercial Bank, in 1984, also initiated a computerisation programme which gradually covered its entire branch network, before taking another significant step in 1984, when it installed its first Automated Teller Machine (ATM) in 1990. The years followed with the bank installing this equipment at existing and new branches. Further, 1993 was a significant year when the International Comprehensive Banking System (ICBS) was introduced linking nine metropolitan branches.
A sophisticated Online Banking System was installed in 1998, linking all its branches and paved the way for clients to conduct a variety of banking transactions from home, through telephones or internet. The onset of the millennium, 2000, saw the launch of Commercial Bank Internet Banking facility giving every benefit of internet technology to their long standing and potential clientele. Then in 2006 the bank introduced the island’s first mobile ATM.
Awards for excellence
Commercial Bank has evolved and expanded throughout the country’s political and economic transitions, and has been highly renowned for its service excellence. Rated the ‘Best Bank in Sri Lanka’ by Global Finance for 11 consecutive years, from 1999, an unmatched and unprecedented achievement, Commercial Bank was also chosen as the ‘Bank of the Year’ by the prestigious ‘The Banker’ magazine, for almost a decade since 2001. It received SL AA++ rating since 2001 from Fitch Ratings Lanka Ltd. in their Annual Review. In 2002, it was also chosen as the ‘No 1 Corporate in Sri Lanka’ by ‘Business Today’ Magazine and won the overall National Award for HRM.
Significantly, it had been among the award winners in the top rankings of The South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) from 2001 to 2008. The Institute of the Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL) ranked the Bank’s Annual Report as the ‘Overall Winner’, the ‘Winner of the Financial Sector’ and the ‘Winner in the Corporate Governance Disclosure Award’ in 2001 to 2006. The Bank also won five main awards including the ‘Overall Winner Award’ at the National Business Excellence Awards 2006 organised by the National Chamber of Commerce. As such Commercial Bank has won many awards locally as well as internationally.
Throughout this journey of excellence, Commercial Bank has been a genuine care giver in the Health, Education and Transport sectors. The road map of CSR has mainly focused on less fortunate children who hail from remote villages as well as less privileged hospitals. Special emphasis was also given to areas that have been overlooked by many, like improving the vocational skills of prison inmates and the aged population. As Sri Lanka’s benchmark bank it has always been at the forefront to assist during critical moments like re-building northern war areas, assisting the displaced in those areas and during the devastating Tsunami.
The legend continues
Trust and integrity have been key value components when meeting the expectations of every stakeholder. As such, Commercial Bank has molded an exceptionally talented team of employees helping them reach their fullest potential. Precisely understanding the needs of customers, the bank has provided new and imaginative schemes that has altogether redefined convenience in financial services and revolutionised the nature of banking in Sri Lanka. Improving in stature, serving in measure, the Commercial Bank of Ceylon continues to be the responsive, pace-setter bank, writing new chapters to create a secure financial future in Sri Lanka.