“Digitalisation is the way forward and out of COVID crisis”, Nanda Fernando, MD of Sampath Bank

Nanda Fernando, the Managing Director of Sampath Bank believes that digitalisation is the future, and hence he sees it as the biggest opportunity for the organisation, which is expected to improve efficiency and reduce costs drastically over the coming years.

“We expect 2021 to be the long-awaited recovery year. Sri Lanka has had back-to-back shocks starting from Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 to COVID-19 during 2020. With the possibility of a vaccine and people adapting to the new normal, supported by the Government policy measures to revive the economy we are hopeful and looking forward to a year of strong growth, particularly from the second half onwards. We expect businesses to invest aggressively after years of passive watching and for consumers to loosen the strings of their wallets as they come out of a lockdown year.”

Speaking further, the MD stated that the bank’s biggest challenge would be to keep the staff healthy until the pandemic is successfully controlled.

“For this we have already implemented safety measures by splitting our staff into three groups and implementing effective home working arrangements. 

“The government directed moratoriums may come to an end and whether the businesses will be strong enough to pick up from there remains to be seen. Sampath Bank, as a truly Sri Lankan bank, plans to support businesses during this difficult phase and help them get back on their feet.”

Sampath Bank has earned a reputation for its IT infrastructure and innovation. Therefore, Nanda emphasised the importance of further strengthening it to better serve its customers.

“We continue to scan and imagine the future financial landscape and invest in technology to be able to cater to the market needs of the future. Here we have identified Mobile Banking to be a key growth driver. As smartphone penetration increases and supporting mobile and regulatory infrastructure falls in place, Mobile Banking is likely to take off. 

“Complementing this development, we will also invest in enhancing IT security and information management. This is a critical area when developing digital and mobile platforms, as information security is necessary to assure customers to encourage adoption and usage.”

Explaining the expected global paradigms in the macro landscape, Nanda affirmed, “Global economy is likely to end in a recession this year. However, the expectation is for 2021 to be a recovery year, recording above average growth. COVID-19 remains the biggest challenge and successful controlling of the virus would open a lot of new opportunities. Thus, a successful testing of a vaccination will be the most anticipated event in 2021.

Nanda continued to say that with the change of the government in the U.S., the trade war will likely end and the U.S. will play a more proactive role in promoting trade globally, which will greatly benefit smaller nations such as Sri Lanka. “With the Government actively supporting exports, we expect significant growth in trade related activities.

“After two back-to-back shocks to the Tourism industry in Sri Lanka, again subject to a successful test of a vaccine against COVID-19, we expect a strong revival in both global and local tourism. 

“Finally, we expect the low global interest rate scenario to continue at least until mid-2022 as most countries around the world have adopted expansionary policies to stimulate economic growth. Due to the significant negative shock to the global economy during 2020, inflation is likely to be low, supporting the low interest rate environment.”

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