Hatton National Bank plc (HNB), the only local bank to be a member of the Asian Bankers’ Association (ABA), reaped the dividends of this relationship at the height of the Great Recession which hit the world four years ago.
Rajendra Theagarajah, HNB’s Managing Director/CEO and the incumbent ABA Chairman told reporters on Wednesday that his predecessor Rienzie T. Wijetilleke had the foresight to join the ABA in the 1980s.
HNB built correspondent bank relationships with ABA members which members spanned the Middle East to the West, Australia to the East, Russia to the North and Sri Lanka to the South. He said that when the recession hit and money from the traditional West ran dry it were these banks, such as those in the Middle-East that came to their succour.
“They were not well known, but they had deep pockets,” said Theagarajah.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka for the first time will be hosting ABA’s annual conference that will be held over two days beginning on October 3. “Some 250-300 delegates are expected to participate in this forum, which is not only a first to Sri Lanka, but also to South Asia, he said. Previously they held such meeting in regions such as South East Asia and the Far East, he said.
Half the participants will be foreigners, Theagarajah said. ABA follows HNB hosting a similar international conference last year, the Asian Micro Finance Forum, where 500 delegates attended. That was organized by HNB’s DGM Marketing & Retail Banking Chandula Abeywickrema, who was also the Chairman, Banking with the Poor (BWTP) Network.
Most of the ABA membership comprises indigenous banks whose heads previously never came to Colombo because of the war, he said. Several of them, such as those from countries like the Philippines and Indonesia will be flying into Colombo in their private jets, Theagarajah said.
The core membership of ABA is bhumiputhra banks comprising some 100 banks in 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
After the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, ABA as its key objectives targeted building the currency bond market and the microfinance sector, said Theagarajah.
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