and a stimulus for a banking revolution
in Sri Lanka.
In 1970, Hatton Bank annexed two
hill-station branches of the then
National & Grindlays Bank and re- A barefoot banking revolution
launched itself as Hatton National
Bank, signifying its new role as a
national player. HNB made its
intentions clear, when around the same
time, it opened five branches – a
massive intensification of its
commercial activities. The bank went
public the next year, with a 35% share
Market to participate in it and must therefore interact offering to its customers, thereby
Banking is often compared to the packaged with the banking sector. broadbasing its ownership.
goods business, where services have become But this is where competition takes a turn. HNB’s progress was both swift and
virtual products and are marketed using the The banking industry, in general, finds it spectacular. A network of
traditional techniques of packaging, promotion profitable to focus on big businesses in correspondent banks, arrangements
and distribution. The reason for this is clear. Colombo and major towns, but is faced with with overseas banks, new branches and
Banks offer services that have become substantial operational expenditure when it a wide range of products kept it at the
commoditised. Accounts – whether they are pursues rural customers. Local banks such as forefront of banking in Sri Lanka. Today,
interest bearing or current accounts, and even Hatton National Bank (HNB), however, don’t the bank’s state-of-the-art, high-rise
loans and credit cards – offer very similar face such daunting hurdles, thanks to a wide and headquarters is a landmark in
features. As such, the banks differentiate deeply rooted branch network across the island. Colombo, in the same way that its
themselves by branding their unique attributes Sri Lanka’s open economy sees more and services are unmistakably Sri Lankan. Other key product enhancements and people what they want and its corporate image
and communicating them in a highly competitive more people from all sectors – both rural and innovations include internet banking services, a – which is akin to a national institution rather
marketplace. urban – seeking opportunities for growth, and Product payment portal, virtual banking, mobile phone than a profit-making private company – have
So how competitive is banking in Sri Lanka? HNB is ideally positioned to leverage its HNB offers a variety of banking products and top-ups and leasing. Recognising the enormous made HNB a household name in Sri Lanka.
Just take a look at what the banks spend to strengths. In the light of this, the bank’s services to complement the diverse needs of a contributions that migrant workers and the Sri
simply stay in business. In 2005, the nation’s Superbrand status is a fitting tribute to its growing nation. Instead of one-size-fits-all Lankan community abroad make towards the www.hnb.net
financial sector spent over Rs. 1 billion on success story. A Bank that’s behind product offerings, the bank has added value to economy of the nation, HNB has
marketing and advertising, which is substantially every Sri Lankan smile. its savings account portfolio, branding it in established strong ties with exchange
higher than most other industries. (Source: SRL Achievements different categories that cater to the diverse houses and agencies. This facilitates inward
MediaScan 2005). HNB has all the hallmarks of a Superbrand – segments of its customer base. There are savings remittances from nations the world over
In a market that generally sees just a handful not just by virtue of its leadership status in the accounts tailor-made for adults, others that are almost instantly. HNB’s trade services
of competitors in any particular field, from banking sector, but by the way it has integrated customised for children, young families and even operations, which received ISO9001:2000
FMCGs to services, Sri Lanka boasts over 40 itself into the very fabric of Sri Lankan society. senior citizens. And the bank’s housing, certification from the Bureau Verities
banks and financial institutions. Many observers, True to its promise, the bank is a partner in educational and vehicle loans are helping more Quality International, are centralised to
in fact, feel that the country is highly overbanked progress for over one million people. Notably, and more people achieve their goals in life. provide an efficient and effective service
and the market has reached saturation point. this includes hundreds of thousands of rural bank right in the heart of the tea country in the HNB pays special attention to youth, with to the bank’s clients.
There is fierce competition in this relatively people who have been brought into the formal central hills. This was a good 60 years before products designed to help them grow to
small market and the big players include many economy by a bank that chooses to tread the Ceylon (a name synonymous, of course, with become successful leaders. These include teen Recent Developments
international names that keep adding to the list. difficult but often less profitable path – a bank tea) earned its right to be independent. Tea was credit cards, special savings accounts, and For a bank with a history of almost 120
At a macro level, this market saturation poses that has made a genuine commitment to on its way to international fame and needed a education-driven and incentive-based growth years, HNB has stood the test of time by
many opportunities as well. Sri Lanka may be a uplifting the standard of life in Sri Lanka. HNB’s bank to keep its wheels of growth turning. accounts. On the technology front, HNB has changing with the times. As part of its
small island of some twenty million people, but islandwide network of over 150 customer Hatton Bank consolidated its partnership with been on the cutting edge of innovation for constantly evolving process, the bank
its geographical, demographical and economic centres is testimony to its pioneering efforts in the architects of the country’s economy, which many years with a nationwide ATM network, recently unveiled a new corporate
demarcations can be intimidating to new areas which have been stifled by poverty. was hugely dependent on tea exports. In 1948, on-line banking and telebanking facilities. identity. With this change came a new
entrants – especially to those that are not In a banking tradition spanning over 100 when Sri Lanka gained independence from The bank is also highly accomplished in the logo and corporate colours, heralding a
rooted locally. The country is still burdened with years, HNB has won many accolades. One British rule, Hatton Bank also changed course – sphere of corporate finance with facilities such new order in customer relationships.
a rural economy, with a fair share of the among them is testimony to the bank’s with an eye on the economic activities of Sri as Asset Finance, Property Finance, Structured HNB has also invested substantially in a
population still living below the poverty line. But triumphant legacy. With a large percentage of Lanka’s post-independent era. Finance and Trade/Commodity Finance. Its loan new international IT platform, custom-
the Colombo-centric economy may seem the world’s population still below the poverty Brown & Company, a respected engineering portfolio also includes Working Capital and made to offer enhanced benefits and
attractive, since even the rural farmer is drawn line, the international community has been entity, acquired Hatton Bank and prepared the Variable Rate Fixed Rate Loans. And HNB acts product features to customers. The bank
searching for a practical micro-finance model. small bank for what would become a trailblazer as a licensed dealer in government bonds. also streamlined its nationwide
High costs and risks, and the resulting low operations, bringing together different
returns, have made most banks shy away from departments and functions within one
micro finance. HNB, despite being a profit- centralised and hi-tech environment. These
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT
oriented private bank, showed its commitment measures are expected to reduce operational
to the Sri Lankan people by launching micro costs, and allow greater flexibility and timely HNB
financing in 1989. delivery of customer solutions. HNB was the first and only Sri Lankan bank
The model, aptly named The Village to be listed internationally on the
Awakening, today involves more than 250,000 Promotion Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
people from over 50,000 families. It has opened HNB’s approach to marketing and advertising
the doors to a new lease of life, so to speak, for has, in effect, changed the modus operandi of It was the first commercial bank to introduce
many Sri Lankans. The World Bank has hailed banking in Sri Lanka. The bank was the first to housing loans.
this novel model because it proves beyond brand an account, backing it with a strong public Amongst commercial banks, it was the first to
doubt that banking products can be offered to promotional campaign and offering valuable introduce pawn broking services, personalised
the poor in a viable manner. prizes. HNB’s flagship Pathum Vimana savings credit cards and affinity cards.
Among the other accolades, HNB emerged account draw still attracts huge public interest –
as winner of the National Business Excellence and many other banks have now turned to It was the first commercial bank to brand a
award for Banking/Insurance in 2004 and was promotions as a means of attracting customers. financial product (Singithi Minor Savings
runner-up at the National HR awards in the HNB’s aggressive and ground-breaking Account). Currently, some 500,000 Singithi
same year. For over ten consecutive years, its advertising strategies have paid rich dividends, jumbo tills serve as mini-banks for children all
annual report has maintained its position as You rise from the watery earth, with its products playing a leadership role. over Sri Lanka.
sector winner. HNB is currently placed among A Bank that continues to contribute to our To toil in search of the sun
nation with its multi-faceted outlook on life. And bloom to be praised Brand Values HNB also introduced the most successful
Sri Lanka’s ten leading listed companies in an micro-finance programme in the country
annual ranking compiled by LMD, the country’s By a thousand eyes. The bank feels the pulse of the people and its (Gami Pubuduwa – Village Awakening).
premier business magazine. products have enhanced the lifestyles of millions.
The phenomenal success of HNB’s brand is On a clear day, from its headquarters in
History testimony to how it closely integrates into the Colombo, Adam’s Peak – in Hatton, the
HNB began as Hatton Bank in 1888, a planters’ lives of Sri Lankans. Its relentless quest to offer birthplace of HNB – is clearly visible.
40 SUPERBRANDS SUPERBRANDS 41