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Building strategic resilience to survive beyond the ‘New Normal’



By Prasath Mahalingam

As we near the two-year mark of the ravenous coronavirus pandemic, it is positive to see that many businesses worldwide have stepped up to the challenge, adjusting their businesses both to safeguard their employees and to continue serving their customers. Even locally, many organisations believe that they have responded efficiently to the pandemic. Yet, some companies showed true grit during these testing times, proving to be more resilient than others, by swiftly adapting their strategies to address both the challenges and the opportunities created by the pandemic. What was the secret behind their success?

As someone involved in building new opportunities to thrive, I see three elements that stand out. Firstly, successful companies quickly accepted the weaknesses in their business’s strategic resilience when the pandemic exposed them. Strategic resilience is the degree to which an organisation’s business model and competitive position show resistance to change. Secondly, they used business-model innovation as the strategic lever to address the crisis. During the last one and a half years, we saw many firms—including local companies—responding effectively to business challenges through unique innovations. And lastly, organisations reworking their business continuity plans, instead developing ‘scenarios’ that give more space for innovation, as they expect them to persist beyond the crisis.

Assessing your strategic resilience

The pandemic has put businesses through demanding resilience checks. For many, it was a rude awakening. While the pandemic weakened the competitive position of some companies, many firms have been able to gain a competitive edge. How? Successful companies have been heavily relying on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, machine learning and cloud. A McKinsey survey 1confirms that technology adoption rates are years ahead of where they were when previous surveys on digital accelerations were conducted. A client of 99x recently engaged us on a Big Data project to analyse over 13 billion records to identify trends that could lead to new business opportunities and increase value to clients.

For organisations that gained ground during the crisis, business model innovation has become the key differentiator. Companies that adopted and tested their novel business models have focused on several areas. One is new digital experiences and services. These were leveraged in response to changes in customer behaviors and needs. Last June, 99x launched DevGrade, a first-of-its-kind solution geared towards hiring technical talent. The fully automated assessment platform allows recruiters to hire the best by virtually evaluating them in simulated real project environments.

Another area has been new partnerships, both within and outside the industry. For example, we have seen insurance companies partnering up with telcos to develop telemedicine apps and pharmaceutical companies collaborating with medical institutions to accelerate vaccine development. Change of sales models is another factor as many companies have had to alter the way they market and sell their offerings. Imagine how the business model of restaurants and logistics companies changed during the last several months with the rapid growth of contactless delivery. The faster development of products has also been a crucial factor to respond to pandemic-related issues rapidly.

Nevertheless, many of these innovations are here to stay in most cases. Many businesses believe their business-model transformations will persevere in the long term—and see more on the way. For example, many IT companies in Sri Lanka are considering a hybrid work model or setting up satellite offices that provides employees flexibility. This in turn will boost productivity both within the organisation and for its customers. All of these reaffirm a time-tested motto: There is also great opportunity in times of great disruption.

Structuring your strategic resilience

The pace of change keeps accelerating. Being brave to make a bold move faster in these uncertain times will help you stand out from others who are uncertain about making a strategic decision to disrupt. To keep up with the rapid pace, the strategic planning process of a business and the team has to be agile to face the high volatility of the business landscape. To do this, organisations need to fix bold objectives. Crises such as the ongoing pandemic pave the way for organisations to explore new business opportunities.

If there ever was a time to reimagine business strategy and fix bold objectives, it is now. Many firms managed to react with unprecedented speed to challenges presented by COVID-19, and they did it in just days and weeks. This is the time to mirror the future role you want your organisation to play for its stakeholders, including customers and employees. Such vibrant organizations,, possessing a disruptive business model have even been able to attract investment for their next phases of growth during these challenging times.

Additionally, the days of developing forecasts for your organisation have now passed. The new normal is all about developing scenarios. Scenarios help a business realise the range of possibilities it might face. This allows the evaluation of planned strategic moves against any crisis and can confirm that the strategy can thrive in a range of future outcomes. This is why business leaders must develop scenarios together with finance and strategy business units to integrate all pertinent viewpoints.

In conclusion

It is impressive how most businesses, including local companies, have infused innovation into their business strategies to respond to the pandemic. However, with COVID continuing, uncertainty and change isn’t going to disappear overnight. To ensure your company is strategically resilient for whatever the future brings, start by instituting dynamic planning procedures that will empower your teams to unlock crucial moves necessary to come out on top, while being flexible enough to change direction if needed.

(The writer is the Chief Business Development Officer at 99x and drives strategic business deals across various domains with key prospects, customers, innovation partners and industry influencers. With over 18 years of experience, he has worked across many disciplines including business analysis, delivery management, people development and marketing, and has been a catalyst in driving change across the organization.)

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SL’s hard default status impacts CSE negatively



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

The CSE slipped in the first hour of trading yesterday after opening over 2.0 per cent up due to SJB lawmaker Dr Harsha de Silva informing that Sri Lanka has now become a hard default country with the failure to pay loans raised from other countries, stock market analysts said.

Sri Lanka’s impending default on US $12.6 billion of overseas bonds is flashing a warning sign to investors in other developing nations. Besides surging inflation is set to take a painful toll. The current petrol crisis has driven the CSE to negative territory, analysts said.

Following the previous day’s momentum, the market opened the day gaining over 2.28 per cent or 192.88 points. Amid those developments, the All- Share Price Index slipped 0.39 per cent or 40.44 points and S and P SL20 went down by 7.76 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3.5 billion without a crossing.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs 1.1 billion (8.86 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 585 million (66.7 million shares traded), LOLC Finance Rs 527 million (49.5 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 169 million (2.3 million shares traded), Softlogic Holdings Rs 145 million (16.3 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 116 million (210,000 shares traded) and Lanka IOC Rs 87.1 million (21 million shares traded). During the day 268 million share volumes changed hands in 33659 transactions.

The country’s manufacturing and services sectors suffered a sharp dip in April as per the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) compiled by the Central Bank.

The manufacturing PMI decreased by 21.4 points as against March whilst the Services PMI was down by 7.5 points. CBSL said the Manufacturing PMI declined significantly in April 2022, following the seasonal pattern and indicating a contraction in manufacturing activities on a month-on-month basis. This would impact the manufacturing and services sector counters in the stock market, analysts said

Sri Lanka’s commercial banks quoted Rs 364 for the dollar against telegraphic transfers yesterday while the Central Bank set a daily guidance rate for interbank spot trade for Rs 359.65 plus or minus Rs 2.50.

Banks could quote Rs 2.50 plus or minus under the new direction and the rate is set below the market rates. The kerb rate has also eased after spiking last week.

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ComBank’s ‘Anagi’ partners with insurance companies to offer affordable insurance to female customers



The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has announced it has partnered with several insurance companies to offer special Life and General insurance products with unmatched low premium rates exclusively for women customers, under the Bank’s ‘Anagi Women’s Banking’ portfolio.

Extending the scope of the Bank’s services to support this segment, the insurance cover comprises of Life insurance, Business insurance, and Home insurance options, the Bank said.

Besides the special premium rates that apply, the insurance can be obtained via an extremely simplified process, and can be extended to the spouses of women customers. The Bank said the scheme is expected to promote financial inclusion, one of the primary objectives of the Anagi Women’s Banking portfolio, through insurance protection.

The policy value of the Life insurance cover provided under this scheme ranges from Rs 1 million to Rs 5 million and covers eventualities of ‘natural and accidental death’ of the life assured during the policy period.

Under this Life insurance facility, a female customer of Commercial Bank between the age of 18 and 45 can sign up for a Rs 1 million policy by just paying an annual premium of Rs 1,100. The spouse can obtain the same policy for Rs 1,500. Women between ages 46 and 65 can opt for the same sum assured with an annual premium of Rs 2,200, if the policy is taken for themselves, or Rs 2,750, if the policy is taken to cover the spouse. The cover can be purchased at multiples of the unit rates of Rs 1,100 or Rs 2,200.

Quoting the 2020 report of the Insurance Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (IRCSL), the Bank said these are incredibly affordable life insurance policies for women, considering that the average sum assured in Sri Lanka is only Rs 1.4 million for which long term insurance policyholders pay an average annual premium of Rs 28,655.

Commercial Bank’s female customers who become life insurance policyholders under this scheme are also entitled to value added services such as access to free fitness classes conducted by leading online fitness provider Fitzky, and a 15% discount on consultations at any ‘My Dentist’ clinic, the largest dental clinic chain in Sri Lanka.

In addition to the life cover, business women can also benefit from a Business Insurance under ‘Anagi.’ It offers protection against fire or lightning, explosions, malicious or aircraft damages, a series of natural disasters, burglary, acts of terrorism and commotions among other incidents. The policy covers losses to buildings including permanent fixtures, fittings, machinery, stocks, cash, and personal property of the policyholder and the cost of workmen’s compensation, hospitalisation, loss of rent, removal of debris, architect’s, surveyor’s, and engineer’s fees due to damage or accidents, and damage to service lines, to name a few. It also includes Personal Accident cover for employers and employees in the event of death or permanent disability, as well as legal liability cover.

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LOLC General Insurance named Best General Insurance Company of the Year



Ushan Goonawardane, Chief Strategy Manager, LOLC General Insurance accepting the award in Kolkata, India from Sudhin Roy Chowdhury, a Jury Member.

The 3rd Emerging Asia Insurance Awards 2021, recognized LOLC General Insurance PLC as the ‘Best General Insurance Company of the Year’ amongst the top Insurance companies nominated from South-East Asia. The evaluations were done by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the multinational professional service network and the event was held ceremonially on the 30th of April 2022 in Kolkata, India.

The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) initiated the Emerging Asia Insurance Awards to acknowledge, honour and to recognise the efforts made by the emerging Asian Insurance companies while creating a platform for them to discuss their common challenges and its ramifications effecting the Insurance sector.

PwC performed the groundwork for the awarding body in reviewing and assessing the applicant profiles. The selection of awards comprised of several criteria and PwC has evaluated the audited financial data (for the last three financial years) of the applicants. Performance on Technical Reserve to Net Premium Ratio, Combined Ratio, Top Line Growth, Shareholder Capital, Number of complaints received, Claim Settlement Ratio and Investment on Training were assessed in gauging the winners.

LOLC General Insurance PLC is a subsidiary of LOLC Holdings PLC, which is one of Sri Lanka’s largest and most diversified conglomerates with operations in 20 countries in Asia and Africa. LOLC General Insurance PLC is currently one of the fastest growing Insurance companies in Sri Lanka and owns 45% of Serendib Micro Insurance PLC in Cambodia. The company has evolved into one of the country’s leading insurance providers of today, in a relatively short period of time.

During the last few years the company continuously streamlined their processes and achieved greater coordination between different units of the company to implement a customer centric approach. The organisation is committed to continuously improve its overall processes, efficiency and relationships to serve the customers better.

During 2021, LOLC General Insurance recorded a premium income growth of 19.2% which was the highest growth recorded by a mid/large sized company in the General Insurance industry and reported paid claims to the tune of Rs. 2.5 billion. LOLC General Insurance has always maintained an undisputed and unsurpassed reputation for speedy settlement of claims. The amount of money provided in lieu of claim reimbursements during the last financial year itself, reflects the company’s commitment to timely claim settlements.

Commenting on the remarkable achievement Chief Executive Officer of LOLC General Insurance, Mr. Kithsiri Gunawardena said “It’s indeed an honour to be adjudged by PwC as the Best General Insurance Company of the Year at the Emerging Asia Insurance Awards 2021 organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Winning the award among Pan-Asian giants this year is all the more precious to us due to all the challenges faced globally as well as within our island nation. I wish to take this opportunity to thank our untiring staff who are key in the success of the organisation and of course our invaluable customers who we strive to give the best service at all times. We will continue to provide innovative risk solutions and create value to our customers, employees and stakeholders!”

LOLC General Insurance aims to help the customers understand and to manage the risks they face, be it individual, family or business. The company works hard to offer the customers a range of products and services coupled with expert support. The solutions assure protection against numerous risks and support all classes of products in the General Insurance space. The organization is supported by Swiss Re, one of the largest reinsurers in the world.

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