‘Sri Lanka’s Best Bank’ has a rich history dating back to the pre-independence era. The birth of Com Bank in the 1920s’, during the British colonial period, a time when trade, commerce and enterprises opened up, and thrived.
However, we gathered momentum in 1969, when Commercial Bank of Ceylon becomes an independent entity beginning an unbroken and unprecedented tradition of excellence in service that has continued to this day.
Portray Of The Roots
In 1920, The Eastern Bank opened a branch at Chatham Street, Colombo. Little did they know that they were laying the foundation to the byword in Sri Lankan banking. As businesses thrived under the Donourmough constitutional reforms, in 1939, they moved to 57, Sir Baron Jayatilleke Mawatha, Colombo, the heart of the business area.
After gaining independence in 1948, trade continued to flourish and as a consequence, the share capital of the 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 it was taken over in 1971, by the Chartered Bank.
The Expansion Of Corporate Business
Off Shore Banking was established under a liberalized economy with the adoption of the second Constitution in 1978 and in 1979 Commercial Bank opened its first Foreign Currency Banking Unit to promote its Off Shore Banking business.
Despite the social unrest in 1980 the bank moved its base operations to the more centralised location at “Commercial House” 21, Bristol Street, Colombo. Thereafter in 1985 the Foreign Department of the Bank was elevated to that of a fully fledged branch.
Towards the end of the decade business expanded with two associate companies, Commercial Insurance Services (Pvt.) Ltd and Commercial Leasing Ltd. Commercial Stock Brokers (Pvt. Ltd), another associate company was added in 1991, with the bank owning 40% equity. The following year, Commercial Fund Management (Pvt.) Ltd. was formed for the purpose of operating unit trusts and 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.
The Bank made history in 1999, when retail and banking was combined to open the very first ‘Mini- Com’ at Cargills Food City in Staple Street.
The Bank raised US $ 65 million syndicate loan with the option to extend it further for a year at the option of the lender, a first for a non- sovereign in the country. Commercial Bank then made a scrip issue on the basis of 1:1 in 2006 and also successfully raised US $10 million by issuing five-year bonds, another first for a Sri Lankan bank. Venturing into the overseas market in 2003, the Bank took over operations of Credit Agricole Indoseuz, Bangladesh, its first overseas foray.
In 2008, Commercial Bank sold its 30% equity stake in Commercial Leasing Company PLC and became the first and only Bank in Sri Lanka to be CMMI certified in 2009.
Commercial Bank became the only Sri Lankan bank to be ranked among the ‘Top 1000 Banks in the World’ by the Banker Magazine - UK, consecutively starting from 2011. Extending Island wide Commercial Bank has expanded its branch and ATM network rapidly reaching out to every nook and corner to become one of the country’s most renown banking services, within easy reach.
Subsequently the Islamic Banking Unit and Elite Branch was set up for high net worth customers.
Adopting The Latest Technology
Commercial Bank uses state-of-the-art core banking systems and ATM systems from leading software vendors, Fiserv and Euronet respectively, at all its branches. The Bank is the largest ATM operator in Sri Lanka with ATM machines installed across the country which also facilitate services such as utility bill payments, fund transfers between accounts and many other functions in addition to cash withdrawals. The Bank's Mobile ATM Units are a common sight at festivals and other large events.
The Bank uses CS Eximbills, a system that contributed towards winning the 'Best Sri Lankan Bank for Trade Finance' Award.
The Online Banking System launched in 2000 was upgraded in 2012 to encompass the latest in user-friendliness, functionality and security. The introduction of Mobile Banking and Cash & Cheque Deposit, KOISKS have not only acted as ‘queue busters’ but also been a part of the bank’s growing technological footprint in the country.
Being the only Sri Lankan Bank with the prestigious ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification for information security, demonstrates the Bank’s commitment to protect customer privacy.
The Corporate Social Responsibility Trust of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC is an initiative aimed at uplifting the lives of communities across the country. Understanding that the smallest actions if done with purpose and dedication have the potential to bring about monumental change Commercial Bank's commitment goes well beyond the financial domain. The Bank has contributed up to 1% of its annual profit to the Trust established in 2004.
Education is the prime objective of the Trust with health coming in a close second. However, the welfare of our war heroes and safeguarding our cultural heritage share equal space in the bank’s CSR agenda. The Bank has concentrated on investing in IT Labs to schools and other special institutes. The Bank mainly focused on awarding scholarships to undergraduates, donating equipment to hospitals and facilitating the welfare of war heroes and other community projects. Other CSR initiatives of the Bank include healthcare projects, preserving cultural heritage, uplifting the living standards of war heroes and needs-based regional projects.
The Legend Continues
Trust and integrity have been key components when meeting the expectations of every stakeholder. As a result, Commercial Bank has moulded an exceptionally talented team of employees and lent them a hand to reach their fullest potential. Understanding the needs of customers, the Bank has provided new and imaginative schemes that has 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 writing new chapters to create a secure financial future in Sri Lanka.