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The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has won two coveted international awards – ‘Best Bank for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Banking’ and ‘Best Bank for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)’ at the latest awards event of the respected Asiamoney magazine.
This is the third consecutive year that Commercial Bank has won a double from this quarterly publication. The Bank was awarded the titles of ‘Best Bank for Small and Medium Enterprises’ and ‘Best Bank for Corporate Social Responsibility’ in 2020 and 2021.
“These awards recognise the Bank’s achievements in two of the most relevant aspects of performance in the current context,” Commercial Bank Managing Director/ CEO Mr Sanath Manatunge commented. “SME’s are the backbone of the economy and, given the challenges faced by our country, supporting them is more important now than ever before. We are committed to increase our engagement with SMEs, who need more support in the current depressed economic context. The second award relates to ESG, which has also become an area of critical importance to shareholders as well as customers and regulators. We are therefore delighted to win awards in these two strategically important areas from Asiamoney.”
The ‘Best Bank for SME Banking’ award recognises Commercial Bank for proactively identifying the timely needs of SMEs and micro enterprises and providing tailor-made products and services to assist this segment that has in the past two years been affected first by the pandemic and subsequently by economic shocks and funding issues. The ‘Best Bank for ESG’ Award was presented in recognition of the Bank’s strategic initiatives in the space of sustainable financing, financial inclusion and nationally-significant contributions via its CSR Trust.
In 2021, the Bank’s SME loans portfolio grew by 10% in value to Rs 210.967 billion as at 31st December. In 2020 the Ministry of Finance declared Commercial Bank as the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector among all state-owned, private and specialised banks in the country, accounting for more than a fifth of all loans in terms of value and number. The Bank maintained this momentum in SME lending in 2021 too, during which it notably secured a US $50 million loan from the CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, to further facilitate lending to SMEs and support climate projects in Sri Lanka.
The Bank also continued with its ‘Biz Loans’ scheme and granted loans to the value of Rs 30.3 billion by the close of 2021. Furthermore, Agri Leases amounting to Rs 1.358 billion were disbursed during this period. In 2021, the Bank launched the ‘Agri Gold Loans’ scheme that offers concessionary interest rates on pawning, exclusively for those engaged in agriculture, fisheries, and livestock farming.
Another significant initiative launched by the Bank in 2021 to support the SME segment was the Dirishakthi Value Chain Development Programme. Designed to improve the efficiency and sustainability of rural value chains and not just an individual borrower, the programme includes in-kind grants and loans to micro entrepreneurs. The Bank carried out capacity building and financial literacy programs benefitting over 2,600 micro entrepreneurs in 2021 alone.
A few other initiatives to support the SME segment include webinars for SMEs, support to women entrepreneurs in the country, and continuous deployments of the “Bank-on-Wheels” operation and disbursement of COVID-19 support loans.
In the realm of ESG, the Bank delivers comprehensive sustainable financial solutions that include screening of credit proposals using a SEMS (Social and Environmental Risk Assessment) tool, advice and support in greening the supply chains of customers, and a range of green products and services and practices that promote sustainable business operations. Commercial Bank was also crowned Sri Lanka’s ‘Best Corporate Citizen’ by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in 2021.
By the close of 2021, the Bank’s CSR Trust had completed over 600 projects under the categories of education, healthcare, community, culture & heritage, and environment.Commercial Bank has donated 243 IT Labs to date, benefitting over 220,000 students, and has continued its support to initiatives in education with projects such as Smart Schools, Math Labs, STEM Classrooms, Coding Clubs and Vocational Training. The Bank also donated essential medical equipment necessary for treating COVID-19 patients to several state hospitals and contributed towards a number of community initiatives to solve problems of access to safe water and sanitation. Further, it embarked on the third phase of the Mangrove planting project around the Koggala Lake to prevent erosion, extended support towards the conservation of sea turtles and continued to promote environment management among clients by encouraging and funding green businesses.
Established in 1989, Asiamoney is a financial publication of the Euromoney Institutional Investor Group. Asiamoney reports and offers analysis on the financial and investment markets for capital issuers, borrowers, institutional investors and senior corporate and government monetary decision makers with business interests in Asia Pacific.
Commercial Bank is Sri Lanka’s first 100% carbon neutral bank, the first Sri Lankan bank to be listed among the Top 1000 Banks of the World and the only Sri Lankan bank to be so listed for 12 years consecutively. It is the largest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector and is a leader in digital innovation in the country’s Banking sector. The Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the Bank operates 19 outlets; Myanmar, where it has a Microfinance company in Nay Pyi Taw; and the Maldives, where the Bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake.