In 1888 the hill station of Hatton saw the genesis of a bank; the first of its kind within the burgeoning tea plantations of the then Ceylon. Aptly named Hatton Bank, this bank became the lifeline to thousands of plantation workers.
Through the ravages of two World Wars and subsequently the Great Depression of the 1930s, Ceylon began yearning to be free from colonisation. Realising that Ceylon would soon become an independent country, the visionary Chairman of Brown & Company, Edmund J Cooray, began laying the foundation for the business opportunities he envisaged post independence. After successful negotiations with Hatton Bank's owners, R D Banks and A T Aitkin, Brown & Company acquired the Bank and began a ‘Ceylonisation’ process that permeated the entirety of the management and operations.
The nationalisation process in the 1970s saw the Bank acquiring the branches of National Grindlays Bank in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, heralding the change of name to Hatton National Bank, as it is known today. Just a year later, HNB opened its first branch in Gampola and continued to expand with branches in Pussellawa and Maskeliya. This expansion continues even today, with HNB possessing Sri Lanka's largest network of branches among private commercial banks. Acquisitions that would augment its presence and business were pursued, as in 1974, with the acquisition of the Head Office and Pettah branch of Mercantile Bank and before long, the Colombo branches of both Emirates International Bank and Banque Indosuez. In 1983, the Bank moved its Head Office to the more spacious locale of R A de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3.
In the mid 1980s, HNB transformed banking to a service that penetrated the entire country. 1993 saw HNB innovate its most successful product, HNB Pathum Vimana, an incentive based savings product which instilled the savings habit into the population and spurred economic development by motivating savers to channel idle money into the banking system. The rewards were immense, with the Bank presenting over one billion rupees until 2009, probably the largest prize money in the country's banking history.
HNB continued to collate a number of firsts into its product portfolio, including the country's first housing finance scheme, Shanthi, which has disbursed over LKR 15 billion, and the establishment of over 154 Student Banking Centers. The employment boom of the mid 1980s and the subsequent creation of a large expatriate Sri Lankan population in the Middle East saw HNB instigate the Pathum Udanaya Prize Scheme which rewarded expatriates for saving and advanced economic development.To serve the country's diverse communities, Gami Pubuduwa (Village Awakening) was introduced, creating livelihoods for 250,000 individuals from over 50,000 families in rural Sri Lanka and earning accolades from the World Bank for HNB's commitment to social sustainability.