Manohari Abeysekara, an Independent Non-Executive Director/ Chairperson – Audit Committee of the National Savings Bank (NSB), has consistently proven exceptionally talented in her academics, accomplishing and leading everything she embeds mind to. 

A proud alumnus of Sujatha Vidyalaya, Colombo and St.Paul’s Girls School, Milagiriya, Manohari constantly stood out with her exceptional Ordinary and Advanced Levels results. According to her, the two-year gap during university due to the JVP insurgency pushed her to pursue Chartered. It wasn’t without a doubt that she took this leap of faith, having done her Advanced Levels in the bio stream. However, her natural talents still kept her on a pedestal, and she managed to achieve the 2nd best results island-wide for the Chartered Accountancy Licentiate Exam. There onwards, the journey has been onward and upward towards the very top of the corporate world. 

After two years of delay, Manohari completed her original degree and obtained a first-class degree in B.Sc. Having completed her CIMA exams hand-in-hand during this time, she joined Hayleys Internal Audit Team to pursue the Chartered Accountancy Training for a year and then moved to KPMG for two years to complete the Training Program. There onwards, Manohari took her baby steps in the corporate world, getting her first job at Oasis Hospital, Narahenpita, as the Financial Controller, after a brief stint she rejoined Hayleys PLC as an Executive- Long Range Planning Unit.

“The highlight of my career at Hayleys PLC was winning the Best Annual Report 2003 – South Asian Region,” states Manohari. She was invited to Lahore to accept the award herself, where destiny strikes, and she meets the man whom she marries and settles down. Being pregnant with a baby girl didn’t slow her down. During her pregnancy, she read for the Masters in Business Administration at the University of Colombo, becoming the batch top and winning three gold medals. During the same year, she received the CIMA Janashakthi Pinnacle Awards – CIMA Star Silver Medal.

Her exceptional performance surely did not slip through the eyes of corporate giants. On the contrary, Manohari’s outstanding performance led to her recognition within Hayleys and has thus provided a solid hand to climb the corporate ladder. She was the manager of Hayleys Strategic Business Development Unit in 2007 and was promoted as the Head of Strategic Business Development Unit / Director –Hayleys Group Services in 2012.

Manohari mentions that she extended a considerable service, being the focal point for investor relations, Embassies and; Chambers, completing acquisitions exceeding the US $ 200Mn. In the year 2019, she was a Director of Fentons Limited and the Chairperson of CIMA Sri Lanka Country Network Panel. Not even a year later, she was appointed to the Country’s Premier Savings Bank – National Savings Bank as an Independent Non-Executive Director / Chairperson Audit Committee, marking a golden milestone in her career, ending the one at Hayleys after 18 long years. 

In 2019, Manohari was selected by the US State Department as a Sri Lankan female leader to follow the Fortune Mentoring Program in New York. She is also an Alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program of the USA. 

Manohari had Executive Education at Indian School of Business Hyderabad, AOTS Tokyo, BHF Bank Germany and ADB Bank Philippines.

“In March 2021, I contested for the CIMA South Asian Elections to represent the CIMA membership at the CIMA UK Council and was selected to represent the CIMA members for a 3-year tenure. I was also recently elected as a Council Member – Sri Lanka Institute of Directors,” continued Manohari, further establishing her keen eye towards knowledge. 

The corporate world is challenging as it is and is known to be even more so for women. Shedding light upon the subject as a pioneer in the industry, Manohari believes that the 3Ns of Negotiating, Networking, and Never giving up can take a woman to unimaginable heights. According to her, understanding your market value and not accepting anything that does not match it is a key to growth. Despite the pushbacks and drawbacks, networking and never giving up is not easy, but essential, in her opinion. The protagonist added, “Never compromise your integrity. It’s a difficult task, but in the end, it’s worth it.” Manohari herself is a strong advocate of female empowerment and has also written numerous articles pertaining to the subject. She believes in allowing flexible working times, which can help young mothers who are talented yet too busy to unleash their potential. 

In Manoharis’ view, the Sri Lankan banking sector is very well curated, regulated, and competitive. “As this is an industry where trust and integrity are required, as a director of a large state-owned bank with assets exceeding Rs. 1 Trillion, the Board has a huge responsibility to preserve the bank’s liquidity whilst growing its profitability,” she appended. She believes that development banks are a worthy addition that needs to be considered further, given that they provide the necessary upper hand to the local entrepreneurs. The availability of Venture Capital Investments would aid this idea more. That is, with consolidated banks coupled with economies of sale. She believes digitization to be the future of banking, which was fast-paced with the effect of the pandemic. 

Manohari counts it a great blessing to have met the former Indian president, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, and she stands by his quote, “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” Robert Frost’s quote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. This icon encourages young leaders to pour their heart and soul into whatever they do, proving that when you need it badly enough, nothing is stopping you from getting it.