HSBC, fresh from opening a branch in Jaffna is seriously considering starting operations in the South and the North Central provinces, according to officials. “This is a natural progression for us, with the economic revival we will be definitely going to these areas. We see a lot of potential in these places,” an HSBC official told the Business Times on the sidelines of the ceremony to open the branch on Thursday.
HSBC is the first foreign bank to start operations in the peninsula while many other banks are also planning their entry into the region.
Sarit Wijeyekoon, Manager HSBC Card Centre said that the bank is targeting Sri Lankan (Tamil) Diaspora funds. “There is a lot of potential in this regard and we will be tapping them,” he said. He said that all segments from regulars to mid-market including premier customers – the HSBC crème-de-la-crème clientele - will be served at their Jaffna branch.
The official noted that many Sri Lankan expatriate Tamils domiciled in the West such as in Canada, US, UK and Australia could easily switch to HSBC due to its strong brand identification. “Since they are more often than not banking with HSBC in those countries, many will feel comfortable and we feel that there will be many seeking to open accounts with us,” he said.
HSBC which has been in the country for 116 years has 15 branch networks in the rest of the country. HSBC had a presence in Jaffna from 1959 through an affiliate, Mercantile Bank, which it exited in 1973 as Sri Lanka tightened economic controls.
"We will connect Sri Lanka's Diaspora living in the UK and Canada so that we can handle both sides: remittances and investment," HSBC Sri Lanka CEO Nick Nicolau said at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, the Indian Overseas Bank officials were also seen scouting for premises in Jaffna on Thursday to start their operations.
Sampath Bank was the first commercial bank to open a branch in Jaffna after the war ended in May. Sampath began its operations in August in Jaffna and other branches were opened in December.