Sri Lanka's best digital bank 2019: People's Bank
Digital banking in Sri Lanka is a work in progress. Several lenders in the private and public sectors are hard at work formulating pan-institutional digital platforms or bolting on new services, then proclaiming their effectiveness and pre-eminence.
This year, People’s Bank wins the award for best domestic digital bank. A venerable state-run institution that first opened in 1961, it is a colossus in its home market, with 745 branches and 14 million active customer accounts.
Some state banks, not just in Sri Lanka but around the world, neglect to invest properly in digital, preferring to lean on and leverage their physical presence. That is not the case for People’s Bank and its chief executive, N Vasantha Kumar.
At the end of 2018, the lender claimed to have 136 digital branches dotted around the country, staffed by 500 digital agents serving 165,000 digital customers. That’s a lot of digital.
It aims to more than double those figures this year, aided by an extra 500 digital marketing agents equipped with Wi-Fi-enabled tablets and sent out into the market to help customers embrace a paperless world. It claims to be able to open a digital bank account in just five minutes (down from two or three days previously) and to issue and activate debit cards in mere seconds.
Many older customers will surely be happy to stick with paper ledgers and physical tellers, but there is no doubt that People’s Bank is going all-in on digital, and for good reason – it has slashed error levels by 70% and boosted cross-selling rates by up to 60%.
In April 2018, the lender rolled out an updated mobile app that includes 33 new features. It was an immediate hit, downloaded 100,000 times in the three weeks after its launch. In total in 2018, 310,000 customers downloaded the app, which was used to complete one million financial and eight million non-financial transactions, cumulatively worth SLRs4 billion ($22 million).