Investment Banking at a Superlative Standard – Dilshan Wirasekara, Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Capital Holdings PLC

Dilshan Wirasekara, the Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Capital Holdings PLC, is a professional investment banker with over 25 years of experience in financial services such as banking, treasury, investment management, capital market strategy, and corporate finance advisory services. Simultaneously, he serves as an elected Board Member of the Colombo Stock Exchange. Dilshan’s career highlights include leading First Capital to become the market leader in categories such as Primary Dealer, Debt Structuring, Trading, and Asset Management. First Capital Holdings PLC is a full-service investment firm that provides independent advice and transaction execution for capital raising as well as other strategic needs such as mergers and acquisitions. As the General Manager of Softlogic Capital PLC, he was part of the team responsible for establishing the Financial Services branch of the diverse Softlogic Group, another significant achievement in Dilshan’s career. Prior to that, he was the Head of Treasury at Nations Trust Bank PLC.

Specializing in Asset and Liability Risk Management, enabled Dilshan to secure the honor of leading and representing two Sri Lankan companies that won the International Bank Asset and Liability competition organized annually by the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), the German Investment Corporation (DEG) as well as Proparco – a subsidiary of the Agence Française de Development (AFD). He further mentioned that he completed his Executive Professional Education at INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France followed by AOTS, in Tokyo, Japan.

Being a successful entrepreneur entails much more than launching new businesses every day. It denotes a positive attitude towards business as well as the determination and grit required to succeed. The most important element, according to Dilshan, is to maintain a positive attitude and believe in one’s abilities. With the right training, support, and development, he believes that it is possible to succeed in business. He claims, however, that many ambitious entrepreneurs have a prominent, innovative, and captivating business idea but lack the necessary abilities and attributes to see it through. Similarly, many others possess the necessary talents and attributes but lack the will to pursue them. Some people have a great idea and the requisite talents, but they can’t get their project off the ground because they lack funds or other resources. As a result, he believes that successful entrepreneurship necessitates a combination of all of the aforementioned elements, and he is pleased to see local support networks emerge for promising entrepreneurs.

When asked what steps he has taken to ensure proper control over the capital budgeting process, Dilshan says that he encourages the bottom-up approach, and while it can be a lengthy and time-consuming exercise, gives staff ownership and ensures that they are encouraged and motivated to achieve the goals that they have created. The employees are fully aware of what the budget requires of them and how to achieve it. As a result, he believes that this strategy is more accurate and closer to the actual situation on the ground.

Dilshan continued to say, in response to the question of how stable and ongoing growth is managed, that the company is a fully-fledged investment institution that is part of the Janashakthi Group- a prominent conglomerate in the country with holdings in Life Insurance, Real Estate, and Finance. The backing by Janashakthi is a source of strength and has aided the company’s growth. He also discusses how First Capital has always challenged the status quo and seeks to innovate. They feel that there is a tremendous chance to disrupt established banking products and services. He shared, “Our motto is “Performance First,” and putting our clients’ interests first has helped us develop immensely,” Trust is vital in financial services, and First Capital has built a loyal customer base that has backed them over the years. They mostly focus on fixed-income investments; fixed income has been the prime performing asset type over the last three decades, outperforming both equity and real estate when measured by the five-year government bond rate or the average weighted fixed deposit rate. This ensures that First Capital remains positive on fixed income considering its thorough market knowledge and in-depth understanding of how it operates.

Dilshan tells us that First Capital Holdings is one of the least affected organizations by the pandemic, which they are proud of. He goes on to say that this is because they laid the groundwork for working from home three to four years ago when they invested in digital infrastructure to enable continuous remote operations. As a result, whenever the country goes into lockdown, the team at First Capital is unaffected and can continue to engage with their clients as usual. He goes on to say that he believes it was more to do with their philosophy of empowering their employees and providing them with flexibility than preparing for a state of emergency. The company also implemented flex-hours, which benefited the employees; 52% of whom were female. Dilshan believes that by implementing a progressive work culture ahead of time, they were able to capitalize on that infrastructure, service their clients, and conduct business transactions remotely during these unprecedented times. Given that we live in a VUCA (volatile, unpredictable, complex, and ambiguous) world where ground realities and consumer behaviors are ever-changing, Dilshan believes that the ability to predict and adapt are essential traits for any organization to thrive and succeed.

First Capital Holdings just finished its best financial year in 2020/21, since its inception over 35 years ago, and there’s still a lot more they can do to keep this momentum going. The company has seen a lot of progress in the digital space over the last year, and while they provide online services for their clients to help them with their investment needs, they are investing in digitalization to further improve the customer experience. This is a first in the business and will revolutionize the local capital markets. To sum up, Dilshan underlines that investing is not nearly as complex as it appears and that effective investment requires knowing when to take the appropriate risks.

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