Mr. Nanda Fernando’s story began in 1970 when he joined the illustrious S Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. From his primary education to completing his Advanced Level exams, Fernando fondly reminisces his time at S Thomas’ College, owing his foundation in discipline and courage to his alma mater.
“The basic objective of S Thomas’ College was to provide a student with a well-rounded experience, encompassing, knowledge, societal etiquette, grooming and a strong foundation in ethics. The high standard of discipline that was set by my time at College, is what has resonated with me throughout my lifetime. This undoubtedly has aided in my career and personal successes.”
Fernando, who is now Managing Director at Sampath Bank believes that most of his achievements are owed to the educational foundation he received whilst at S Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia.
Fernando was involved in sports and extracurricular activities during his formative years, particularly in Scouting.
“S Thomas’ College was very conducive to sports and in encouraging skills development, not just within the classroom but also outside. In fact, it was probably due to having joined the Junior Scouts in 1975 when I was 12 years old, that I continued to challenge my skills and capabilities even as an adult, learning to work with individuals from varying backgrounds”.
After approximately a year, Fernando received the opportunity to become a Patrol Leader and shortly thereafter, a Troop Leader. Fernando in fact went on to become the Scout Leader for S Thomas’ College as a young adult. He was so grateful to his Scoutmaster – Mr. Daniel Edirisinghe, who was a pillar of strength for him. Through his interest and success in Scouting, Fernando strongly believes that he received a lasting and strong foundation in discipline, society and community work, overcoming challenges, honing his organizational skills, leadership skills, communication, etc.
Commenting on his family, Fernando said that his mother and father played a pivotal role in his childhood and guided him through to his success. Subsequently, his wife Deshani and his son Gihan have been supporting him through his journey to the helm of Sampath Bank, which has provided him the opportunity to dedicate his time as a committed leader.
Upon completing his schooling career at S Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia in 1981, Fernando joined Hatton National Bank (HNB), which at the time was a leading private sector bank in Sri Lanka. It was here that Fernando spent the next six  years further developing his skills in traditional banking.
Sampath Bank’s differentiating factor from its inception was its willingness to push the boundaries of banking, putting the customer first. When asked about his humble beginnings at Sampath Bank, Fernando fondly noted
“The difference I saw was from the point of business, compared to my previous banking experience. Customers would still come into the bank branch until 7pm on most days, though we officially closed at 3pm. As we put our customers first and never insisted on the bank being “closed”. This along with other tactical implementations, led to Sampath bank breaking the mold of traditional banking. I remember working till midnight most days, whilst having elephant house hot dog dinners with my colleagues. Of course, Sampath Bank took good care of us late-workers. They made sure we were well-fed and transported home in comfort and convenience.”
Concluding on the topic, Fernando strongly noted that “the staff loyalty and commitment to the brand began to develop and it was due to this that the brand continued to grow. It was the kindness and strong employer beliefs of management, that cultivated this loyalty. I recall Mr. Janaka De Silva, the first General Manager of the bank, would come down to each floor to speak to each employee prior to taking his leave to head home. Kumara Weerasuriya, my first Manager at Sampath Bank was almost never seen seated at his desk. He was an officer on mobile service who assisted wherever he was needed, regardless of his position.”
Sampath Bank in its first year of operation received an LKR 4.8 million profit, pursuant to this in its second year, the bank opened its following branches in Pettah, Nugegoda, etc. expanding its presence into the North and East, as well as rural areas, gradually. Sampath bank now has 229 branches, at present.
As Sampath Bank completes its 33rd year in March 2020 Fernando has hope for a brighter 2020. Commenting on the recent trials and tribulations that the nation underwent, he said. “Every day there is a change taking place, locally and globally. 2019 has been a very challenging year. GDP growth dropped compared to 2018. Due to the challenges faced by tourism and subsequently the construction industry, this created a ripple effect which led to SMEs and corporates alike finding it difficult to progress in their businesses as well.”
Sampath Bank’s focus is to improve/ upgrade its customers lifestyles, as well as assist corporates and SMEs to grow sustainably.
“We need to ensure that we double the GDP of the country and the per capita income over the next 5 to 7 years and in order to do this, my personal belief is that the primary ingredient required for this is the discharge of the education level in Sri Lanka, with the promotion of a performance culture,” commented Fernando.
Concluding on the success of Sampath Bank and its continued growth – Fernando expressed his belief in the Triple Transformation project which focuses on developing its business, people and technology. This has allowed for Sampath bank to enhance new experiences through its core strength of innovation in IT.
He has strong faith in the Sampath bank team which is he believes is the best banking team in Sri Lanka. He also firmly believes that he would lead the bank to the pinnacle of the banking industry, with a view to provide the people of Sri Lanka an opportunity to improve their quality of life, well-being and happiness.