The Ministry of Finance has confirmed that the Commercial Bank of Ceylon was the biggest lender to Sri Lanka’s SME sector in 2020 among all state-owned, private and specialised banks in the country,accounting for more than a fifth of all loans interms of value and number.
According to the Ministry’s Annual Report for 2020, Commercial Bank lent Rs 163.98 billion or 21.57% of the Rs 759.7 billion in loans provided to SMEs by 19 institutions,while the 58,584 loans provided by the Bank represented 23.82% of the total of 245,883 loans granted in the pandemic-impacted year.
The value of Commercial Bank’s lending to SMEs wasRs 21.6 billion or 15% more than the next lender, Ministry’s published data reveals.
Commercial Bank was also the highest lender to the ‘Industry’ sector dispensing Rs 45.9billion or 21.3% of the total via 9,654 loans.
Of the total of Rs 163.9 billion granted tothe SME sector by Commercial Bank, 4.47% was to the Agriculture sector, 14.58% was to the Services sector, 28% was to the Industry sector and 52.9% was to ‘Other’ sector.
“There can be no better illustration of our commitment to our mission and to the national economy than this,” Commercial Bank Managing Director Mr S. Renganathan observed. “The data also reaffirms our status as a systemically important bank in Sri Lanka. Our role in supporting the SME will be further strengthened in the years ahead with the US$ 50 million loan the Bank recently secured from the UK’s CDC Group.”
He pointed out that Commercial Bank was the leader in providing financial relief, especially to SMEs,under the Government stimulus package during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. “This was a noteworthy contribution in setting the trend in providing financial support to the sector, given that the country was at a total lockdown at that time and there was no assurance when the country situation would return to normality,” Mr Renganathan said.
The Bank completed its SME Banking Transformation operation in 2020 which introduced a new SME architecture thatincluded the launch of a Centralised Credit Processing Unit that paved the way for Commercial Bank to become the largest lender to the SME sector among private sector banks in 2020 via the ‘Saubhagya’ scheme.
The Bank also launched ‘Arunella’ – a Financial Support Scheme that included 12 initiatives designed to assist and provide concessions to SMEs. This included a moratorium scheme, relief to non-performing borrowers, reduction of lending rates, concessions for Credit Card holders, concessions and fee waivers, and free digital services, to name a few. It also included two special loan schemes, one for SMEs affected by COVID-19 and the other the ‘Dirishakthi COVID-19 Support Loan’ scheme to assist micro enterprises disrupted by the pandemic.
Commercial Bank is a powerhouse for SMEs and total solutions provider, with initiatives that encompass providing a host of non-financial benefits such as Financial literacy and sector-specific training to SMEs.The Bank also acts as an SME incubator,providing extensive support in the grooming and graduation of micro enterprises into SMEs.These Microfinance initiatives are further supported by three Mobile Banking units set up in the Northern, Eastern and Ratnapura areas to further strengthen banking services to un banked and under banked MSMEs located in rural areas.