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SLID hosts webinar on ‘The Integrity Agenda’

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The Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID), in collaboration with its knowledge sharing partner Ernst & Young (EY), held a timely webinar discussion recently on “The Integrity Agenda – the Heightened Role of Boards”.

The session focused on how directors could steer their companies with integrity in the current environment. The panel comprised of Sunil Wijesinha, chairman of United Motors PLC, Watawala Plantations PLC and RIL Property PLC, Murtaza Esufally, chairman of Hemas Hospitals, Hemas Pharmaceuticals, Managing Director of Morison PLC and Non-Executive chairman of the Center for Poverty Analysis with Hiranthi Fonseka, Partner of Ernst & Young as the moderator. The keynote presentation was made by EY’s ASEAN Forensic & Integrity Services Leader Ramesh Moosa. The webinar was an initiative taken by the Institute’s INED Forum and was extended to all SLID members as well as the clients of EY in Sri Lanka.

“In this social media driven world, we know that adverse news travels rapidly. Any event of fraud could severely impact an organization’s reputation and will involve a great deal of cost and effort to recover from such damaging, adverse revelation. An investigative process will negatively impact the morale of the management and employees, and in regulated industries it will attract very close scrutiny by the regulators” said Ramesh Moosa while identifying asset misappropriations, bribery and corruption, and financial statement fraud as common fraud schemes.

He added that the opportunity to commit fraud in current times is heightened by work force reductions and displacements which adversely affected the operation of internal controls and segregation of duties; remote working may expose access controls to cyber compromises and management overrides and workarounds posed higher risks.

“In the current times, the pressure and opportunity to commit fraud are heightened as is its rationalization” he further stated.

Sharing insights from EY’s Global Integrity Report 2020, a global survey which involved about 3600 respondents, Moosa said that 90% of the survey respondents believed that Covid-19 posed a risk to ethical business conduct in their organizations. Commenting on the role of a Board director, he said that Board directors have a role to ensure performance and conformance and that the relationship between these two should be viewed as a symbiotic relationship where conformance supports performance which will enable integrity led organizations to flourish.

“Defining what integrity means to the business and investing in it, leveraging technology and data to automate, detect and monitor risk indicators, transforming the compliance function and programs to be forward-looking and developing a robust crisis response capability that would secure stakeholders’ trust are four action points for Boards” said Moosa.

Responding to the moderator’s request to provide his views on the Integrity Agenda for Sri Lankan companies, panelist Murtaza Esufally said that integrity, credibility and reputation have always been extremely important.

“In Sri Lanka’s quest for development, we need FDIs and technology transfers to Sri Lankan companies through JVs. Companies in Singapore, Hong Kong, Holland, UK and Ireland get the highest FDIs since they have built a culture of integrity and trust in institutions in those countries” he added.

Panelist Sunil Wijesinha said that the majority of Boards in Sri Lanka do give a high priority to the Integrity Agenda and that it varies according to whether or not the company is a public listed company or is in a regulated industry.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen the regulators tightening the regulations. Hence, there is a lot of pressure on Boards to make sure that the integrity of financial reports and business operations are accurate without any fraud. There is a huge responsibility on the Boards and senior management. During the current Covid times, we have to be careful of the pressure to perform which is much more complex due to the incentives that are being given. I always promote the concept of whistle blowing which can bring about great benefits” he added.

He also said that while the private sector has gone to great lengths to introduce regulations and best practices, it is strongly recommended that the public sector follows suit.

Moosa’s presentation was followed by a fruitful Question and Answer session with the participation of the audience. Questions were raised with regard to the practical issues and the panelists responded drawing from their own experiences.

Finally in her closing remarks, the moderator Hiranthi Fonseka observed that whilst integrity and trust are not new to Sri Lankans, the discussion on the Integrity Agenda is actually a wakeup call for Boards to become more vigilant.



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Business

DFCC Bank facilitates the continued growth of Sri Lankan SMEs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

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The unprecedented surfacing of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting scar on the global population and economy. With no precise warning on the horizon, businesses everywhere were thrown into the deep end, and survival seemed uncertain during the peak of the pandemic. In Sri Lanka, a nation where SMEs form the integral backbone of the economy, the ill effects have been taking a heavy toll on businesses both fiscally and mentally.

However, we as Sri Lankans are resilient at our core, and with the integral support of frontline workers, officials, and essential services such as our banking partners, we set forth on a journey to assess, adapt and survive. One such story about perseverance through a valuable relationship comes from K.S.K. Menan of Star Food Store (Pvt) Ltd, and his trusted banking partner, DFCC Bank.

Emerging from humble beginnings, Menan’s story is one that inspires patriotism, and reaffirms the importance of giving back to your motherland. As a self-made entrepreneur, Menan was successfully engaged with the departmental store industry in the United Kingdom, when one day, he decided to leave everything there and come back to his home, Sri Lanka. He was on a mission to give back to the country that had given him so much, and that led to the birth of ‘Star Food Store’ in Kokkuvil, a supermarket equipped with all the necessary household essentials. DFCC Bank had been by his side throughout the entire journey until the opening of his outlet, and even more when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“When Imoved back to Sri Lanka in 2016, the very first account I opened was with DFCC Bank, and with their support, I was able to open the first‘Star Food Store’ in November 2019. However, when COVID-19 struck, everything came to halt. When restrictions were relaxed, I faced multiple problems with bringing things back to how they were. DFCC Bank stepped in and gave me overdraft facilities, helped clear my cheques, and provided additional funds at a low interest rate”.

Today, Menan has been able to open a second Star Food Store outlet at Achchuveli in August 2020, and a third at Idaikkadu in February 2021. He states that expansion is the last thing most businesses consider during this turbulent time, however, the X factor that has allowed him to do this is his banking partner.

“The confidence an entrepreneur gains with the right banking partner is immeasurable, and I have been able to find that with DFCC Bank. They have always gone out of the way to ensure my venture’s continuity, from sending someone from the branch immediately if there is an issue with the card machine during business hours, or even understanding that loose change is important for a supermarket and sending bags of coins from the Colombo branch for business use. I now have plans of constructing a state-of-the-art shopping complex in Jaffna, and look forward to working with DFCC on this project”.

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Covid-19 third wave fears dampen stock market

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

The CSE witnessed a steep decline following worries over the possible outbreak of a  Covid 19 third wave in the country and the continuation of selling pressure for certain stocks in the market, stock market analysts said.

CSE investors worried over 52 new cases being detected in two retail stores at Pamunuwa and at a state bank in Colombo at the end of the April holidays. Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, market analysts said.

  Consequently, the All Share Price Index declined by 2.9 percent and S and P SL20 dropped by three percent. Major companies sought after by investors negatively contributed to both indices during the day. According to  market analysts,  these companies  were:  LOLC (27 negative points),  Expolanka (19 negative points), Vallibel One (12 negative points), Hayleys (11 negative points) and JKH (10 negative points).

All Share Price Index went down by 198.39 points and S and P SL20 down by 93.89 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3.7 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Ceylon Cold Stores (CIS), which crossed 60000 shares to the tune of Rs. 35.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 594. 

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were: Browns Investments Rs. 717.6 million (114 million shares traded), Expolanka Rs. 480 million (9.8 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs. 392 million (five million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 389 million (6.9 million shares traded) and LOLC Rs. 193 million (587,000 shares traded). During the day 197 million share volumes changed hands in 31305 transactions.  

Sri Lanka rupee quoted firmer around 192/194 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Tuesday, while bond yields slightly eased, dealers said. Sri Lanka rupee last closed at 194/198 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Monday. The Central Banks Telegraph Transfer rates stand at 187.93/191.97 levels below the spot rates on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has come under pressure amid money printing and low-interest rates, despite the worst import controls since the 1970s, observers said.

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SAT launches F5 portfolio to deliver secure digital experiences

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(At left) : Edgar Dias, Regional Vice President of Channels and Partnerships, Asia Pacific, F5. (At right) : Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

South Asian Technologies (Pvt) Ltd, announces its appointment to be a distributor for F5 within Sri Lanka and Maldives to deliver secure digital experience to enterprises.

The cutting-edge technology is a portal for delivering applications and data with greater agility, security, availability, performance, and scalability.

F5’s portfolio of automation, security, performance, and insight capabilities empowers customers to create, secure, and operate adaptive applications that reduce costs, improve operations, and better protect users.

“With the increasing necessity for digitalisation in the workspace, now more than ever, organisations need proven solutions to help secure their businesses. Adding F5 to our existing portfolio gives South Asian Technologies, a more omniscient opportunity to equip our partners and customers with best-in-class application security and delivery solutions. As F5 enables adaptive applications, the SAT team is ecstatic at the prospect of securing our clientele with robust security offerings that have a proven history with Fortune 500 companies across the globe,” said Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

Every company today is in the digital experience business. In the wake of COVID-19, customer expectations are higher than ever, as the experiences garnered are the primary way that people interact and transact with just about every organisation at present.

F5 helps organisations deliver and secure the premium digital facilities that customers demand by enabling adaptive applications which, like living organisms, will naturally adapt based on their environment – growing, shrinking, defending, and healing themselves.

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