By Bandula Sirimanna  State-owned Bank of Ceylon’s (BOC’s) ambitious plan of reaching greater heights through the extension of its wings overseas has been hindered due to the Treasury’s inability to increase the bank’s capital, outgoing bank chief Gamini Wickramasinghe told a packed audience of journalists at a media conference in Colombo this week. It was [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Treasury’s inability to increase capital hinders BOC’s overseas plan : Outgoing bank chief


By Bandula Sirimanna 

State-owned Bank of Ceylon’s (BOC’s) ambitious plan of reaching greater heights through the extension of its wings overseas has been hindered due to the Treasury’s inability to increase the bank’s capital, outgoing bank chief Gamini Wickramasinghe told a packed audience of journalists at a media conference in Colombo this week. It was convened to announce his retirement on January 8th ending a five year dedicated and illustrious career from 2007 to 2012 at the helm of the bank after, according to him, achieving all his targets for the bank and not bowing to any political pressure.

The BoC Chairman (right) in a pensive mood. Pic by Amila Gamage

Mr. Wickremasinghe noted that the bank cannot achieve its true potential without fresh capital and therefore a proposal was made to the Treasury before the 2013 budget suggesting ways and means to infuse fresh capital and methods to harness maximum potential of the BOC without burdening the Treasury or the bank. However the Treasury has not responded to it favourably, he said, adding that the bank was quite capable of issuing a bond up to US$ 500 million. The BOC had plans to set up branches worldwide especially in countries where the Sri Lankan community is living, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and North America as well.

“The bank also planned to increase its branch network in India and to become a regional player, providing third party banking services to Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis. To expand overseas, we need more capital,” he said. He noted that he devised this plan to bring in foreign currency into the country without going ahead with the programme of expanding locally. “If we expand domestically, smaller banks, and even some of the large commercial banks, could be affected due to the BOC’s size and functions, he said. “According to un-audited accounts for 2012 the bank recorded a profit of Rs. 20 billion; no other entity in this country can come close to this. I have brought the bank to such a level that anyone at the helm can continue the good work easily,” Mr. Wickramasinghe said.

He disclosed that his resignation was tendered to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in August 2012 but agreed to stay on until finding a suitable replacement. He said that his only request to the President was not to appoint a political stooge to head the bank because it could affect all achievements of the BOC.

Answering a question raised by a journalist, he said that there was political pressure on recruitments and loans, but he always adhered to rules and regulations for the sustenance of the bank.

Media reports recently highlighted an argument between Mr. Wickramasinghe and the President’s son Namal Rajapaksa MP at a function, relating to some appointments given by the bank or granting some loans. Asked about this development, he noted that, “Namal is a young politician and young people have their own ways in handling matters”.

“He asked me a certain question and I gave him a suitable reply; that was all. There is no friction or problem between us,” he said in response to a question whether his resignation had anything to do with Namal Rajapaksa. He revealed that recent recruitments to the bank were made on merits of candidates who sat for a competitive examination. There was a small error in the question paper and it was rectified and the matter was settled providing justice to all affected candidates, he revealed.

Mr. Wickremasinghe pointed out that dealing with clients including top corporate heads who expected patronage was among the many challenges in managing a state entity. He said that he treated every one alike without involving politics.

Referring to his future activities, he said that he has no intention to join a state institution although there are some offers adding that he will rest for some time while looking after his agriculture activities including organic farming and later proceed with his private ventures.

He disclosed that he had earlier served at the Securities Exchange Commission and the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka for 8 1/2f years but he had never done any politics.

Some financial and business highlights of the Bank of Ceylon under the chairmanship of Gamini Wickramasinghe


=Raised US$210 million, the largest internationally syndicated debt by a Sri Lankan issuer.
=Appointed co-manager of historic $500 million debut bond issued by the Government of Sri Lanka
=”Gam Udana” Village Development Programme for deposit mobilisation


=Raised Rs. 4.2 billion via a listed subordinated rupee debenture of five years
=Raised $21.6 million via a private placement of a five year subordinated dollar debenture.
=First SMS based mobile scheme introduced by BoC, partnered with Paymate – available free of charge to BoC customers


=Celebrates 70th anniversary
=First state bank to launch an Islamic Banking Unit, which operates through island wide network.
=Kilinochchi, Mankulam and Mulllativu branches connected to online branch network, the operations of which were disrupted during the war.
=In aftermath of war, set up mobile banking centres for IDPS offering free bank services thereby coming to their aid after they endured many years of suffering.
=Established post-conflict corporate plan to raise Rs 10 billion in profits and 1 trillion in assets by 2012


=Converted London Branch to an independent fully owned subsidiary of BoC operating in the UK.
=Established successful investment banking unit.
=BOC successfully raised Rs. 5 billion in the second public issue of unsecured, subordinated, redeemable five year debentures.
=First state bank to establish a 24 hour service point
=Achieved profit target of Rs 10 billion two years ahead of schedule.


Fitch Ratings Lanka Ltd upgrades BoC’s National long term rating to AA+ stable outlook, highest rating given to a local commercial bank
17th strongest bank in Asia Pacific out of 500 as rated by Asian Banker.
Introduces online leasing system
Doramadalawa – agricultural village that promotes organic farming techniques


=In a span of almost six years, tripled assets, deposits, loans and shareholder’s equity, and seen profits grow seven fold
=Market leader in assets, deposits, profits, inward remittances, NRFC deposits, trade finance, shareholder’s equity and treasury operations.
=Rated No. 1 Brand in the country by Brand Finance Lanka for the past four consecutive years
=Fulfilled 2009 corporate target: Achieved Rs 1 trillion balance sheet in May, seven months ahead of schedule. First institution and first bank in Sri Lanka to have a trillion rupee balance sheet.
=First bank in Sri Lanka to successfully raise $500 million through a listed senior unsecured bond in May 2012 from the international market.
=Bank’s rupee debenture issue of Rs. 6 billion was successfully concluded in November
=Expanded share of assets from 21 per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent in 2012
=Well over 1100 service points including branches, extension offices and ATMS islandwide; 1000th service point opened in Puthukudiyiruppu (Northern Province) in July this year.
=Financed over Rs 130 billion development projects in the north and east after the war

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