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New World Banking to make HNB "Bank of the Future"

Managing Director/CEO of HNB, Mr Jonathan Alles at the ceremonial opening of the landmark 450th ATM at Hotel Road, Mount Lavinia. Mr Thimal Perera, Deputy General Manager - Retail & SME Banking, HNB is also in the picture.

Hatton National Bank (HNB) as the premier private sector commercial bank in Sri Lanka, has aggressively driven adoption of the latest technology and deployment of alternate banking channels. The bank recently launched an integrated marketing campaign titled "New World Banking" in order to create awareness about the array of innovative digital, electronic and mobile banking products it offers and highlight the special features of these comprehensive cross-platform systems. In an interview HNB Managing Director/CEO Mr Jonathan Alles spoke about the new campaign, the customers response to technological innovations and the future prospects of HNB.

Q . Globally the landscape of the banking sector has been changing in the recent past with evolving customer needs and adoption of new technology. How prepared is HNB to face these new challenges?

A . In the modern world, the lifestyle of people are changing rapidly with time being a constraining factor and developments in technology bringing the world closer through faster communication modes such as electronic mediums, mobile phones, social media etc. These developments are also changing and shaping the landscape of the financial services sector as customers demand convenience. Hence alternative channels are becoming more and more popular compared to the traditional banking channels across the world.

In line with this global trend and taking in to consideration the high mobile penetration level in Sri Lanka, affordability of smart devices by the masses and the changing lifestyles, Sri Lanka is also witnessing a gradual shift into electronic channels. Being cognizant of these changing trends, HNB has been in the forefront of developing and adopting these new technological delivery channels for its customers. During the past few years, HNB has invested heavily to build a robust electronic and mobile banking platform as well as to move towards cashless transactions offering choice and convenience to its customers.

Our approach towards identifying the changing needs and demands of the market coupled with our constant drive for innovation has enabled us to be a leader in providing superior technological solutions to our customers.

Q. Can you elaborate more on why you say HNB is a leader in introducing innovative products to the market?

A. The HNB brand represents and is very well known and accepted in the market place for strength, stability and its innovativeness built over 126 long years. Over the past decades HNB has been leading the commercial banking space through its first to market products such as 'Pathum Vimana', 'Shanthi housing loans', 'GamiPubuduwa' microfinance programme, just to name a few.

During the recent past continuing with its innovative product development capabilities HNB became the first bank in Sri Lanka to launch a fully-fledged mobile banking solution which is device and operator independent and accessible through SMS, USSD, Smart App and web browser. We further strengthened our alternate delivery channels by upgrading the internet banking platform and introduced more secure features such as 2 factor authentication.

Furthermore, HNB was the first Bank to introduce mobile POS technology to Sri Lanka, branded as 'MoMo', providing a more cost effective solution to large scale as well as second tier merchants.

HNB also became the first Bank to launch NFC (Near Field Communication more commonly known as Contactless Technology) enabled combo cards which facilitates usage at high volume fast checkout counters including toll payments in the transport industry and drive through areas.

The mobile app introduced by the Bank using Augmented Reality technology, which is another first to market, enables the customers as well as non-customers to be up to date on our products, services and special offers as well as finding the nearest HNB branch / ATM.

In addition, we have enhanced our technology platform through the implementation of new systems in the areas of credit evaluation, pawning, leasing, anti-money laundering and management information systems. Last year, we invested in a new ATM switch and installed many special purpose ATMs to supplement our widespread ATM network.

As such HNB has been driving the adoption of latest technology and deployment of alternate banking channels in Sri Lanka for a very long time in order to bring banking convenience through anywhere, any channel banking to our customers.

Q. What is significant about the new ATM switch and the special ATMs?

A. We commissioned a new ATM switch about a year ago, integrating our core banking system, credit card system and electronic banking system.

Some of the key features of the new switch include real time utility bill payment functionality, Personalized, user specific profiles and interfaces to facilitate fast and convenient transactions, currency conversion, online real time bulk cash acceptance and processing functionality.

Additionally, through this new ATM switch, HNB has the capability to offer card less services to non-customers as well as the unbanked population. The recently launched inland remittance service as well as travel cards are such examples.

We recently opened our 450th ATM and this network is complemented by special purpose ATMs such as cash deposit machines and kiosks. Furthermore by being a partner bank of the Lankapay common ATM switch, our customers have the convenience of accessing over 2,000 ATMs spread across the country.

Q . In that case are there any plans to reposition the HNB brand?

A. Not the HNB brand, but we want to highlight all our technological advances made in the Electronic and Mobile Banking space. The 'New World Banking' campaign which we just launched highlights all these latest innovations and is expected to reposition HNB as the 'Bank of the future' and further build on our very strong image as a stable and service oriented systemically and strategically important bank in the Sri Lankan banking landscape. The campaign focusses on our array of innovative digital, electronic and mobile banking products and highlights the special features of these comprehensive cross platform systems which are enabled by world class technology.

For example through this service proposition a customer has the option to use alternate channels for his or her banking transaction needs such as balance inquiry, fund transfers, cash withdrawals and deposits, utility bill payments using either internet banking, mobile banking or special purpose ATMs / kiosks on any day at any time from a location of his or her choice.

Q . How have the customers responded to these new technological advancements?

A. The response we have received from our customers has been extremely encouraging. We have seen the number of registrations on mobile banking growing exponentially since launch and with the Sri Lankan population becoming more and more tech savvy we expect the usage on mobile as well as internet banking to increase further in the coming months and years.

Also the groundbreaking product 'MoMo' has enabled us to further strengthen our position as the market leader in merchant acquiring. The product has brought about convenience and competitive advantages to many large businesses that have pioneered the use of this service.

We welcome all our customers to HNB New World Banking, to avail themselves of our best in class service offering, developed and supported using cutting edge technology delivering convenience through access using devices of the customer's choice be it from home, office or while on the go.

Q. What is the impact on the Bank from these technological developments?

A. Driving sales, service quality and operational excellence are three key strategic priorities for the Bank in the next three years.

The technology investments made in the recent past on e-channels, analytics, product development and system implementations/ upgrades have contributed immensely towards achieving these strategic goals. The investments in technology have enabled us to provide a better and faster service to our clients who use alternate channels and also to our customers who are using the counters thereby enhancing the level of service and customer satisfaction.

The system upgrades and implementations carried out have led to improved efficiency and productivity relieving staff engaged in back office operations. We have deployed these resources successfully to strengthen our sales and business development capabilities.

Q. Finally, what is your view on the economy of Sri Lanka and the prospects for HNB?

A. The real economy of Sri Lanka is expected to grow by 7-8% during the next few years with inflation expected to remain at single digit levels. The prevailing low interest rate regime is expected to result in a credit growth of 18-20% improving the credit to GDP ratio of the Country.

With per capita income expected to increase and the resultant improvement in disposable income HNB will be in a better position to capture the growth through its widespread retail franchise and the array of products and services capable of meeting all the future needs of our discerning and loyal customers.

Further we believe that the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) segment would be the engine of growth in this emerging economy. As such, HNB with its strong SME relationships in urban and rural Sri Lanka will be in the forefront in providing banking services to these customers, true to its tagline "Partner in Progress".

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