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‘Nations Trust Bank continues to demonstrate resilient performance amid volatile conditions’

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Nations Trust Bank ended the third quarter with a strong performance, continuing the trend demonstrated in the first half of the year. The loan book recorded an 18% growth during the nine months ended 30th September 2021 against the private sector credit growth of 10.6% during the same period of the year, amidst the challenging business environment.

The Bank extended its fullest support in the implementation of the Government’s initiatives to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and the community and to stabilise the economy by partaking in the ‘Saubhagya’ loan scheme.

Over LKR 20 billion new credit facilities were disbursed by the Bank under its own revival fund “Nations Diriya” scheme which is dedicated to extending financial support to key industries, enabling such businesses to recommence and rebuild their business operations. The Bank also offered special payment relief schemes and repayment plans for existing borrowers, in addition to the Central Bank mandated moratorium schemes with low-interest rates and restructured repayment plans for some of the identified industries.

Nations Trust Bank raised USD 65 million from overseas Development Finance Institutions during the year to support the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector. The Bank also raised LKR 4 billion, Fitch ‘A’ rated, Senior, Unsecured, Unlisted, Redeemable Debenture in July 2021 further strengthening the medium-term funding profile of the Bank.

Financial results for the period

The Group recorded a Profit Before Tax of Rs.7.46Bn, a growth of 27% for the nine months ended 30th September 2021 compared to the previous year, despite the challenging operating environment experienced during the period.

Supporting the loan growth and economic recovery efforts, average yields on loans reduced by 350bps. A net reduction in yields in the FIS portfolio also contributed to the decline in net interest income. The absence of a one-off interest reversal on moratorium loans similar to what was recognised in the previous year helped negate the decline in interest income. The improvement in CASA ratio to 37% as at end September 2021 from 31% as at the end of September 2020 helped partially offset the decline in interest margins during the period.

Momentum could be seen in Trade Finance related income with the increase in certain Trade Finance related activities. Growth in cards income was contained on account of a decrease in card spend due to changes in customer behavior patterns owing to the restrictions in mobility and overseas travel. Suspension or refund of certain charges by the Bank, considering the current difficulties faced by customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, negatively impacted the Bank’s fee-based income.

The Bank was able to realise sizable trading profits on its fixed income securities portfolio with the fall in market rates. Gains on foreign exchange trading also increased primarily from FX funding swaps due to a higher depreciation of the rupee during the current period in contrast to the depreciation during the same period last year.

Impairment charges on loans declined by 18% during the period owing to the new underwriting standards and concentration on loan recoveries. Positive flows in the past due buckets together with lower exposures in most risk buckets, reflects a 193bps reduction in the non-performing loan ratio. The Bank continued to assess the uncertainties in the operating environment and to maintain a management overlay in the impairment provisions on exposures to identified risk elevated industries. The Stage 3 loan ratio (net of impairment) and the provision cover for Stage 3 loans stood at 2.73% and 42.62% respectively as at 30th September 2021. The Bank increased the impairment provision on investments in foreign currency denominated bonds issued by the Government of Sri Lanka in line with market practice to reflect the current macro-economic conditions. (NTB)

The Bank was successful in containing the increase in Operating Expenses to 2% despite the Operating Expenses in 2020 being 10% below the corresponding period of 2019. This reflects the cost management culture entrenched across the organization. Continuation of some of the cost saving strategies and initiatives executed last year along with productivity, efficiency drives and focus on some large cost pools were the main reasons for this favorable outcome. Cost to income ratio improved to 42.3% compared to 45.7% in the same period last year, demonstrating the Bank’s ability to considerably enhance efficiency and productivity through digitalization and new ways of working.

The impact stemming from the income tax rate differential in income tax and deferred tax relating to the financial year ended 31st December 2020 was reversed using the applicable new tax rate of 24%. This resulted in a profit after tax of Rs.5Bn for the nine months ended 30th September 2021 with a 61% growth over last year same period.

The Return on Equity stands at 18% and the Return on Assets at 2.19% for the period under review.

The financial position of the Group remained strong as its Tier I Capital and Total Capital Adequacy ratios as at 30th September 2021 standing well above the regulatory levels at 12.9% and 15.8%, respectively without considering the profits earned in 2021. The Statutory Liquid Asset Ratio (SLAR) for the Domestic Banking Unit and the Off-Shore Banking Unit was at 32% and 34%, respectively, as at the reporting date.

Essential banking services were provided continuously despite some parts of the country being isolated with months long travel restrictions imposed as a result of a third wave of COVID-19 during the period.

In true spirit of supporting the national effort, Nations Trust Bank’s employees came together to contribute essential medical equipment for the national COVID Response, by donating a half a day’s salary to the Bio Medical Engineering Unit at the Ministry of Health.   Nations Trust Bank also donated a portable ventilator to the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila earlier this year.

Commenting on the results and achievements, Priyantha Talwatte, CEO/Director stated, “We are committed to growing a healthy asset book and remain focused on delivering our strategic agenda set for the year and enhance digital capabilities with the ultimate intention of achieving customer convenience, cost and process efficiencies, pioneering innovation and thereby, challenging the norm to deliver an unparalleled banking experience to our customers in a new reality. With the nation-wide vaccination program successfully being rolled out, there is an expectancy of a rapid return to economic normalcy, and Nations Trust Bank is fully geared to steer ahead more responsively to the external environment by prioritizing customer requirements supported by an extremely focused and involved Nations team who has demonstrated their agility to deliver sustainable value, given the challenging environment.”



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ComBank partners with PayHere to offer Q+ users a unique eCommerce experience

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Commercial Bank’s Group Chief Marketing Officer Mr Hasrath Munasinghe (2nd from right) and PayHere Founder/CEO, Mr Dhanika Perera (2nd from left) exchange the agreement in the presence of PayHere Head of Developments, Mr Karvin Mendis (extreme left) and the Bank’s Senior Manager – Card Centre Mr Seevali Wickramasinghe.

The Commercial Bank of Ceylon has partnered with PayHere, Sri Lanka’s largest Aggregated Internet Payment Gateway Service, to offer users of its Q+ Payment App a unique, user-friendly and secure eCommerce experience.

Commercial Bank customers can now conveniently pay for their purchases via the Q+ app to over 3300 registered PayHere Online Payment Service enabled merchants. The Bank’s Credit, Debit and Prepaid Card holders who pay through Q+, the fastest-growing QR app in the country, will not be required to tap in their card details as this information is already stored on the app, the Bank said.

Payments to PayHere merchants via the Q+ Online Pay facility will enhance customer convenience as the transaction will only require the entering of users’ mobile numbers registered with the app. Disbursements via Q+ require authentication using a static PIN which ensures the safety and security of transactions, making the Q+ App more secure than a normal card as the customers’ sensitive data is not transmitted to merchant websites.

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TAMAP drives Stakeholder Forum for Good Agriculture Practice

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Secretary of Agriculture Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe addressing the forum

The inaugural meeting of the GAP Stakeholder Forum was held with the support of the Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme (TAMAP) at the Department of Agriculture in Peradeniya on 17 November 2021. Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest.

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) programme, introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 2016, was a promising step taken to minimise adverse impacts of agriculture on the ecosystem and human health while meeting steadily rising demand for food. Although the programme had an encouraging start, the overall conversion of farmers to implementing GAP remained low. Over the past six years, 1500 farmers registered as GAP producers out of the 1.8 million farmers in Sri Lanka. To align with the current policy of the Sri Lankan Government to improve ecological friendliness of farming, it is important to transform all production units towards GAP farms.

Studies showed that to achieve this goal, the GAP implementation strategies needed to be updated and infused into the mainstream agriculture, facilitating a quick transformation of the current approach towards a macro-level system. Therefore, the requirement for a rapid strategizing of such an approach followed by periodic review of GAP performance arose. This initiated the need for a stakeholder forum.

The key purpose of the forum is to provide a common platform for key stakeholders to meet in formulating a strategy to mainstream SL GAP, propose a way forward for implementation such recommendations, and to regularly review program performance and adopt remedial action to achieve GAP objectives.

Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe, Secretary Ministry of Agriculture who chaired the Forum in his opening statement commented, “GAP programme has emerged a solution to challenges faced by Sri Lankan agriculture today to improve safety of users and ensuring good environmental performance. Reinforced by facilitating legislation and approved national standards, GAP programme provides a strong foundation towards addressing above concerns.”.

Over forty participants were present at the forum, representing the various stakeholder groups comprising producers, distributers, SL GAP team, academics, and market players. Ms D. S. Ratnasinghe, Addl. Director (Agribusiness) and Dr W. M. W. Weerakoon, National Coordinator outlined the status of the GAP programme and the challenges faced.

The deliberations during the forum were broken down into five main areas: Technical, financial, institutional, and social problems faced by GAP stakeholders on maintaining production, supply, product quality, and consumer trust. Gaps in technology transfer and adoption, marketing and quality control measures and means for increased rate of adoption and GAP farm certification; Gaps in current GAP process and procedures, user friendliness and applicability; Future technological needs towards increasing production, productivity, product quality and ecosystem sustainability; and Policy needs for increased adoption of GAP to mainstream GAP into national agriculture agenda.

Prof. G. Pushpakumara, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya and Ms Jayantha Ilankoon, ADG (Dev) moderated the forum through group activity, outcome presentations and strategic discussions on the way forward.

Concluding the forum, Dr Nihal Atapattu, stated, “TAMAP, along with the European Union that provided the funding support is very pleased to have assisted to launch several interventions that would promote recognition of GAP as a premier means of strengthening Sri Lankan agriculture in sustainably meet requirements of the domestic and export markets. TAMAP expects that the Stakeholder Forum launched today will be a milestone event in advancing GAP to achieve its potential in Sri Lanka”.

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HNB’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments wins Daraz award

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Daraz Managing Director Rakhil Fernando (fourth from left) handing over the award to HNB Head of Cards – Gauthami Niranjan. Also present (from left): Daraz Partnerships Nimesh Dasanayake, Daraz Senior Manager – Prepayments Sandamina Rajapaksha, Daraz Head of Partnerships Dulika Jayamanne, HNB Cards Business Development Executive - Ashokan Harishanna, HNB Assistant Manager - Cards Business Development and Portfolio Management - Imanka Keshini Hikkaduwage and HNB Cards Business Development Executive – Roshan Chaminda Perera.

HNB has been recognized by Daraz for exceptional contribution to its growth, in an independent endorsement of Sri Lanka’s leading private bank’s commitment to expand e-commerce and digital payments throughout the country.

The award, for the ‘Card Base with Highest Overall Growth’, was presented to HNB at the ‘Daraz Payment Partner Performance Awards 2021’. HNB, which ranks among Daraz’s best banking partners, recorded the highest growth on total payment volume, buyer engagement and total transactions month-on-month, for both credit and debit cards for the year 2020-2021.

“This award is an important validation how the local economy – both businesses and consumers – are benefiting from HNB’s cohesive programme to drive greater adoption of e-commerce and digital payments,” HNB Head of Cards, Gauthami Niranjan said. “These efforts are particularly significant at present, given how digital and contactless payments can assist in reducing the spread of the pandemic and support the Bank’s and the country’s vision to transform Sri Lanka to a cashless economy.”

Currently, HNB Cardholders enjoy multiple offers on Daraz, Sri Lanka’s leading online marketplace, a wholly-owned subsidiary of global e-commerce giant, the Alibaba Group. These include zero-interest instalment plans up to 48 months with attractive discounts for HNB Credit and Debit Cards and 10% off site-wide on Daraz for all HNB Credit Cards on purchases made during Saturdays. In addition, HNB tied up with Daraz for its 11:11 and Black Friday sales, which provided HNB Cardholders access to a range of offers and massive discounts.

HNB has been a pioneer in Sri Lanka’s banking industry in the digital banking and digital payments space. These include the launch of digital wallet and payment app, HNB SOLO and introducing Asia’s first-ever fitness-linked savings product in the form of the HNB FIT Savings Account.

With 254 customer centres across the country, HNB is one of Sri Lanka’s largest, most technologically-innovative banks, having won local and global recognition for its efforts to drive forward a new paradigm in digital banking. HNB has a national rating of AA- (lka) by Fitch Ratings (Lanka) Ltd. The bank was also ranked among the World Top 1,000 Banks list compiled by the prestigious UK-based Banker Magazine for five consecutive years. HNB was also declared Best Sub-Custodian Bank in Sri Lanka at the Global Finance Awards 2020.

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