Sri Lanka has plenty of scope to improve financial inclusiveness and has much to gain by looking outside the country’s financial capital, Colombo with Hambantota expected to be the next big city, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Sri Lanka Anirvan Ghosh Dastidar said.
Speaking to The Island Financial Review he said too many banks were concentrated in the western province.
With the government paying attention to developing areas outside the western province, Dastidar believes that for Standard Chartered Bank, which has a global network of over 1,700 branches and outlets and 5,600 ATMs in more than 70 countries and territories across the globe, counting more than 150 years in Sri Lanka, future prospects lie outside Colombo.
"We are looking at creating a niche for ourselves in Sri Lanka’s emerging economy and rather than expand in Colombo, or in the western province, our focus would be the regions. For example, we believe Hambantota will be a major city within the next five years and it is in areas such as this that we would want to establish ourselves," Dastidar said.
Hambantota is hosting some of the matches played in the ICC Cricket World Cup. The country’s second international harbour is being built by the Chinese while an international airport is also on the drawing boards.
"The country’s small and medium enterprises also hold a lot of promise and we have been actively engaged with this sector for quite some time," Dastidar said, revealing another aspect of Sri Lanka’s banking environment, where the once ignored SME sector are now finding favour with the bankers.