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BOC floats bold business revival scheme to uplift loyal customers



Bank of Ceylon (BOC) adopts a novel humanitarian approach in debt recoveries through a special recovery unit. In Sri Lanka, all commercial banks are governed by a set of rules and regulations in lending and recoveries set out by the Central Bank.

However recent unexpected happenings globally as well as locally, affected activities in the Sri Lankan economic landscape causing major setbacks to domestic as well as other investments in an unprecedented manner.

In this backdrop the Sri Lankan economy faced severe hardships due to the stand still and the crippling effect on the vital economic indicators of the country. This occurred due to the extraordinary spread of new COVID – 19 Pandemic which affected nations across the world and the Easter Sunday terror attack two years ago in Sri Lanka.

Deputy General Manager – Recovery Provinces, Business Revival & Rehabilitation, of BOC Rohana Kumara explained the novel mechanism which the bank adopts to recover advances made to the bank’s loyal business customers in an amicable and more prudent manner. This was very difficult than the stringent recovery policy which banks are normally supposed to adopt in recovery of advanced money from the so called past-due or defaulted customers.

Rohana noted that as a government sector institution the bank’s recovery policy took a new turn from the conventional banking practices and adopted a different approach by viewing the business in a more progressive manner.

Explaining further Mr Rohana noted, most of the corporate businesses which were affected very badly by the Easter Sunday terror attack and the Covid-19 outbreak were helpless. They faced a situation where they could not recover due to the sinking nature, they face in the economy with either curtailed or limited avenues to pursue in their normal activities- the situation was forcing them into insolvency. Many among these were well to do businesses which had generated employment opportunities to many and all those were faced with a debacle that would become a burden to the economy.

The Government and the Central bank introduced many concessionary loan schemes to uplift these falling businesses. However, considering the losses incurred by these businesses, it was essential to assist the Government with its economic revival agenda going beyond the assistance provided by working capital loans under ” Saubhagya” scheme.

Customers with long lasting unblemished relationships with BoC cannot be left alone “it is prudent to think outside the box and help them” Rohana said. BoC decided to review these customers’ businesses and help them to get into the main track of profitability, Mr Rohana stressed.

Adhering to normal banking procedure in such a scenario these businesses will be considered as defaulters and face the inevitable end of extinction. “As a responsible bank we do not want that to happen to the loyal and long-standing customers hence the main intent of the bank is to revive them where both parties will be benefited”.

With this unique vision in mind bank decided to establish a special unit separate from the regular banks’ recovery division and transferred all these selected corporate level business customers with a view of to reviving them. These businesses are not viewed as past due customers with defaulters’ intent but businesses with genuine recovery ability and intent.

The Bank of Ceylon has commenced activities of this unit in January 2021, and in March ’21, about 14 categories were identified for revival and more than 10 are within the final phase of recovery. Total debt with direct and indirect facilities so far revived is over Rs. 30 billion. Mr.Rohana further stressed that the bank has plans of extending these services to provinces and small and medium scale business as well in the future and the indication is this is getting more popular day by day among genuine customers.

At present a new credit policy to accommodate special concessions and terms is completed and presented for the approval he said. Once the approval is granted the bank intends expanding this business revival policy to many sectors and accommodates the regions. These reviews do not offer total interest waivers but some possible waivers and some other special concessions Mr Rohana explained.

The prerequisite in the revival scheme is the businesses should be able to submit to the bank an acceptable business plan. However, if any business needs guidelines and help to provide such a plan the bank is willing to help them to do so. Rohana was very positive about the success of this revival scheme and quipped customers revived during the last couple of months have paid their dues on time and this is a very positive indicator towards this scheme’s success.

“the industries for revival are selected through a very stringent review process following all the financial guidelines, also the credit committee of the bank which is headed by the General Manager and consisting of many DGMs have the final review on all the credit concessions and revival decisions this unit takes.” Rohana noted. “The Chairman of the Bank and the members of the Board of Directors too are very keen on the progress of the revival plans approved and regularly review the position of the reviewed businesses. Most of the selected revivers’ balance sheets and debt ratios are not within normal banking norms but if our review indicates going by their past behavior pattern, a revival is possible within a two to three years’ period, the bank considers them as a suitable business for revival” he further explained.

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Courtyard by Marriott to debut in Sri Lanka



Marriott International is set to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Sri Lanka, this year. The hospitality giant has signed an agreement with Colombo City Centre Partners (Private) Limited, part of the Abans Group, for this 164-key hotel, expected to open in late 2021, – according to Business Traveller India.

Located in the heart of Colombo city adjacent to the Beira Lake, Courtyard by Marriott Colombo will feature 164 modern guest rooms and suites. The rooms will be equipped with functional work area, smart amenities, and high-speed internet access, making it an ideal stay option for business and leisure travellers, the Indian magazine stated.

There will be two dining venues – an all-day dining restaurant serving a combination of western dishes, Asian favourites and a host of local delicacies as well as an adjoining Lobby Lounge decked with a full-service bar and a quick-bites menu.

Other amenities include a 24-hour fitness centre, an outdoor swimming pool and three meeting rooms.

Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific (excluding China), Marriott International said:

“We are delighted to strengthen our Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of hotels in Sri Lanka with today’s signing. The signing underscores our long-term commitment to Sri Lanka as a strategically important market, offering the potential to grow our brands and provide customers with more choices.”

Kiran Andicot, regional vice president – Development, South Asia, Marriott International commented, “We are very pleased to collaborate with Abans Group, who share our vision to offer smart, intuitive service and high-quality accommodation in Sri Lanka.”

Further elaborating on the collaboration, Aban Pestonjee, chairperson of Abans Group said:

“We are happy to have forged this strategic business alliance with Marriott International and are keen to see our relationship grow from strength to strength. We eagerly look forward to the opening of the first Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Sri Lanka. We are excited to have Marriott International with us at Colombo City Centre.”



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Virtusa appoints Santosh Thomas as CEO



Virtusa Corporation, a global provider of digital strategy, digital engineering and IT services and solutions that help clients change and disrupt markets through innovation engineering, yesterday announced the appointment of Santosh Thomas as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Virtusa’s Board of Directors appointed Santosh as successor to the company’s founder, Kris Canekeratne, who announced his transition from the business in May 2021. Santosh joins Virtusa during a time of significant growth and follows the recent appointment of Sander van‘t Noordende to the position of Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Santosh brings more than 20 years of leadership and industry experience to Virtusa. Most recently Santosh served as President of Global Growth Markets at Cognizant where he managed a business with revenues over $4 billion and built multiple billion-dollar businesses in Europe and Asia Pacific in Banking, CommTech and Products & Resources.  In his new role, Santosh will help Virtusa drive growth in key markets and continue to be recognized as an employer of choice.

“On behalf of the entire company and the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Kris for his more than two decades of leadership,” said Sander van‘t Noordende. “I would also like to welcome Santosh who brings a stellar track record of client service, leadership, and proven success. Santosh has the vision and experience to take Virtusa’s deep heritage in digital engineering to new levels of growth.”

 “I am deeply honored to join Virtusa at this exciting time for our employees, clients and partners,” said Santosh Thomas. “I have admired Kris and Virtusa for fostering a culture of innovation and distinguishing itself as a global leader in helping customers tackle their unique digital transformation challenges. Virtusa has a great brand reputation, an impressive roster of strategic partners, and is well positioned for sustained growth.”

“When I founded Virtusa 25 years ago I had a vision to build a global powerhouse in digital engineering services. And we did just that,” said Kris Canekeratne. “I leave with the confidence that the company and its leadership team have never been stronger and its opportunities have never been greater. I welcome Santosh Thomas to the CEO role and wish him the best in his efforts to lead Virtusa through its next phase of growth.”

Also announced yesterday, Denise Warren has joined Virtusa’s Board of Directors and has been appointed Chairperson of its Audit Committee. Ms. Warren recently retired from her position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of WakeMed Health & Hospitals, and serves on the boards of Brookdale Senior Living, Computer Programs & Systems Inc., and Rockroom Insurance Group. 



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No double standards please, on govt’s vehicle import ban: CMTA



Meanwhile, on June 9, The Island published its front page lead story ‘Covid time bonanza: Luxury SUVs for MPs coming after all- LCs opened before Cabinet rescinded its own decision’.

The Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) has expressed its concerns on the decision the government has taken to import 400 vehicles – including 227 luxury SUVs – to a value of Rs. 3.7 billion through the Bank of Ceylon. The Government reversed its earlier decision to cancel the order, citing the fact that the Letters of Credit (LCs) had been already opened and “as the opening of Letters of Credit meant guaranteed payment, Sri Lanka faced the prospect of being blacklisted if a unilateral decision was taken” as per Minister Keheliya Rambukwella’s explanation to the press.

The CMTA notified the government of the same issues and repercussions on international trade as a result of unilaterally dishonouring 216 LCs of its members that had been opened prior to the import ban in March 2020. Totalling Rs. 5.2 billion, these include a considerable number of vehicles ordered by permit holders such as doctors and government officials who are at the forefront fighting the pandemic, some of whom had already sold their existing vehicle, anticipating their new vehicle to arrive shortly. Is it fair to keep these permit holders on hold indefinitely while new luxury SUVs are imported for MPs during the import ban?

Due to these LCs being dishonoured, a total of more than 14,000 vehicles comprising 10,780 Motorcycles, 2640 trishaws and 537 Cars specifically ordered for Sri Lankan market conditions were prohibited from being imported.

The vehicle import ban imposed last year has taken a toll on vehicle buyers by constricting the market at a time when the need for personal transportation is more acute. To make matters worse, the resulting imbalance of demand vs. supply has caused prices of used vehicles skyrocket within a short time span, and has led to unscrupulous activities at the expense of the consumer, such as odometer tampering.

Speaking on behalf of the CMTA, Chairman Yasendra Amerasinghe said, “Considering the rampant increase of COVID-19 cases at this time, with various potent variants of the virus spreading throughout the island, personal mobility represents the safest option for citizens who have no choice but to travel. The CMTA very much agrees with Minister Rambukwella’s statement that cancellation of confirmed LCs will affect the credibility of our banks and country. We strongly urge the government to apply the same standard to LCs for vehicles for government servants including doctors, and the general public as it has applied for luxury SUVs for MPs. We hope that there would be no double standard.”

Furthermore, the CMTA mentioned that it had been reminding the government of a proposal for Quota that It had submitted in March, at the request of the President’s Secretariat, to which no response had been given. This proposal was based on a minimum volume of vehicle imports for the industry to survive until the import ban is lifted.

Concerns were also raised as to how this purchase had been carried out without an open tender, with queries as to whether it complies with government procurement guidelines.

Founded in 1920, the Ceylon Motor Traders Association (CMTA) is affiliated to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and is widely accepted as the voice of the Sri Lankan Automotive Industry.

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