HNB's commitment to elevating and empowering the rural community of Sri Lanka has been apparent from the Bank's inception, when it inducted a village adoption project in Moneragala. The Bank's Development Division was instituted with the intention of becoming the leading Development Banking unit among commercial banks, and today, HNB remains the only commercial banking institute to have downscaled their operations to meet the needs of the micro finance market.
In 1988 and 1989, recognising the relationship between poverty and the youth unrest the country was experiencing, HNB instigated a micro-financing project entitled "Gami Pubuduwa" (Village Awakening). The aim of the project was to aid rural youth in pursuing self-employment ventures. In an unprecedented move, the Bank introduced the "Gami Pubuduwa Upadeshaka" (Village Awakening Advisor), a specially selected bank officer who would become an integral part of the village community, effectively acting as the tie between the Bank and the village.
By offering financial services to rural entrepreneurs involved in cultivation, animal husbandry, trading and other self-employment projects, HNB has changed the lives of over a million people.
During the last two decades, the Bank opened its doors to more people in more places, particularly in rural Sri Lanka, providing access to Micro-savings, Micro-lending, Money transfer services and, of late, Micro-insurance. Further cementing its affinity with the rural Sri Lankan in agriculture and agri-processing, the Bank devised a new model for rural expansion, setting up Micro Banking Units to bring financial inclusion to rural Sri Lanka and the country's youth.
Sri Lanka's rural areas have a growing need for banking services, particularly in the agricultural and commercial sectors. HNB Micro Banking Units fulfil the "Gami Pubuduwa" promise of bringing banking to the doorstep of the rural community. The first Micro Banking Unit at Kurunduwatte, Nawalapitiya was installed in September 2009 with a fully equipped IT infrastructure and ATM facilities. The Unit is manned by a four member team and the staff is well conversant in Micro Entrepreneur development, building dialogue and discussion to economically enrich the people of the area.
The concept behind the initiative is to offer a comprehensive package of services, including financial assistance, technical know-how and marketing arrangements, to the rural community. This will significantly contribute towards the development of the rural agricultural economy.
The Gami Pubuduwa project has won international awards and recognition from the World Bank, Asian Bankers Association and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others. It continues to provide opportunity and support to those whose talents would otherwise be squandered.