Reaffirming its leading role in promoting grassroots financial inclusion and entrepreneurship, HNB PLC was once again declared the Best SME Bank in Sri Lanka at the Asiamoney Awards 2023.
Organised to showcase excellence among leading banks in the Asia Pacific region, this year’s awarding process followed stringent evaluations of financial performance and strategic business models in addition to weighing in feedback from customers and competitors.
“SMEs are essential to the Sri Lankan economy, generating 52% of GDP, and creating livelihoods for more than 45% of Sri Lanka’s entire workforce. At every step of its development, HNB has actively worked to and empowering grassroots enterprises, and we have supported many to grow into fully fledged corporates of national and even global significance."
“In the face of persistent economic volatility, our work in developing and strengthening the SME sector takes on even greater importance. We are grateful to Asiamoneyfor recognizing our efforts, and most importantly, to all of our teams on the ground who continue to take on the challenge of supporting SMEs to navigate this challenging time, and plant the seeds for economic revival,” HNB DGM – Retail Banking Group, Sanjay Wijemanne said.
The roots of its commitment to partnering grassroot enterprises goes back all the way to the bank’s inception in Sri Lanka’s hill country in 1888. According to HNB Deputy General Manager – SME and Micro Finance, Rajive Dissanayake, the bank’s mission to serve as a partner in progress to these grassroots enterprises is now evolving.
“The advances we are making in digital banking, combined with the unmatched expertise and deep personal relationships that we have cultivated with SMEs over generations has the potential to create an entirely new paradigm in SME development. Throughout the COVID pandemic, our first priority was to channel as much support into getting past daily operating challenges.”
"During the COVID pandemic, this included facilitation of access to debt moratoriums and concessionary working capital loans, with emphasis on SMEs with proven capability to perform. Additionally, HNB also forged partnerships with a variety of stakeholders to provide SMEs with access to e-commerce and digital payment solutions, export facilitation, training and skills development, as well as access to funding via international credit facilities."
"HNB continued to partner with donor agencies and DFIs in attracting low cost funding to support SMEs and this included a collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the SMELoC Emergency Response Scheme. Through this, the bank supported over 650 MSME customers with working capital and Capex facilities."
“Increasingly we have shifted our focus towards driving systemic solutions to customers in distress, back on the road to recovery. The next paradigm in financial inclusion will be in connecting SMEs to these new digital capabilities and providing them the skills and support to build resilience and competitively differentiate themselves in order to capture new markets locally and globally. Our top priority will be in supporting this new generation of agile, tech-empowered SMEs,” Dissanayake explained.
Furthering grassroots digitalisation in Sri Lanka, the Bank offers a wide range of holistic solutions including user-friendly digital banking services and ERP solutions. HNB also facilitated e-commerce integration through the AppiGo platform with affordable online payment gateways.
Given the vital importance of maximising Sri Lanka’s export performance, HNB partnered with Cord 360.com – an online marketing platform that provides exporters support in key areas such as finance, logistics, packaging and market access – providing local SMEs with a portal to pursue global business opportunities. In particular, the platform streamlines process and costs involved in linking and negotiating trade with foreign buyers, benefitting SMEs in particular who face greater challenges in such activities.
HNB also signed on as the exclusive banking partner to the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) for 2022-23. Through this partnership, HNB pledged to support the NCE in their diverse service offerings, including representation of Exporters in discussions and meetings held with relevant Government bodies. Through this, the bank hopes to eventually attract Foreign Direct Investments related to Export oriented manufacturers and service providers.