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Ramanathan Nadarajah – Loss of a veteran banker


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By ParamaDharmawardene, A. Kathiravelupillai and 

Guy de Silva

It was with profound shock and grief that the banking community, his friends and relatives received the sad news of the untimely demise of RamanathanNadarajah on 26 June, at the age of 74.

He was born on 9 May 1944 as the only son of Mr. and Mrs.KasipillaiRamanathan, a highly-respected and religious familyin Thirunelvely North Jaffna. He had his primaryand secondary education at ParameshwaraCollege Jaffna, one of the leading collegesin Jaffna, founded by Late Sir PonnambalamRamanathan. As a student he excelled in studiesand graduated from the University of Ceylon (Peradeniya) with a degree in double Mathematics and Physics with a Second Class (Upper Division).

‘Nada,’as he was fondly called by his friends, started his banking career when he was 24 years old by joining Bank of Ceylon as astaff officer. Since he had passed his degree with a Second Class (Upper Division) he was placed in the higher grade of Staff Assistant Grade – II,then Staff Assistants being presently known as Management Trainees. 

His hard work, dedication and commitment earned him lots of respect and admiration from all and although he never craved for positions or limelight he was able to move swiftly up the hierarchicalladder of the bank.

He obtained extensive experience in Branch Banking having worked as the Manager of the Kurunegala and Main Street Colombo branches of Bank of Ceylon for long periods. He then moved to Credit Support Department, Imports Department, Treasury Division Corporate Credit (Restructuring and Recoveries) Department and the Finance and Planning Division,making him a complete banker with the widest possible exposure. 

He was extremely committed to his work being well known for ‘paying attention to detail’. It was when he moved into the Corporate Credit Division he displayed his true talent unearthing his hidden potential. He was a master in scrutinising credit papers and added value in no uncertain manner to the bank’s credit evaluation process.

Hebegan his career as a trainer by conducting classes for the young bankers in Bank of Ceylon. Thereafter he went on to become a much sought after resource person for seminars especially on bank lending. 

Having served in almost all key functions of commercial banking, he also kept on moving up the bank’s hierarchy to be an Assistant General Manager and thereafter a Deputy General Manager of Bank of Ceylon.

He was always striving to develop his knowledge and did not neglect hisprofessionaleducation. He passed the Diploma in Banking Examination conducted by the Chartered Institute of Bankers London and was awarded its Associateship. He then went on to be elected as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, London (FCIB) in recognition of his services to the banking industry.

Whilst he was at Kurunegala he also completed his Masters’ in Business Administration from the University of Colombo.It is remarkable that he succeeded in his MBA as he had fallen and broken his pair of spectacles on entering the examination hall and had had to answer the first paper whilst holding the only undamaged lens to his eye with his left hand, which showed his true character.

He retired from Bank of Ceylon when he reached the age of 55, even though he was entitled to request extensions of service until he was 60 years of age and the bank would have more than loved to retain his services for the maximum period. 

He was immediately picked up by Pan Asia Bank as its Deputy Chief Executive Officer, with right of succession, and he was appointed Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Pan Asia Bank within a short period of time. After a few years of guiding that bank to a sound position, the unselfish person he was, he wanted a younger person to take over the leadership of the bank as he believed in succession planning. He had not looked for alternative appointment but was happy to leave the bank when a successor was found.

Thereafter, his services were sought again this time to help Seylan Bank to come out of the crisis it was in at that time. He was appointed an Executive Director of Seylan Bank and was placed in charge of the bank’s operations. He proved his worth in the next few years, by helping the bank out of the crisis situation to a more stable footing before leaving the bank.He also functioned as the Chairman of its subsidiary Seylan Developments PLC at that time.

In spite of all this he did not shy away from service to the Sri Lankan banking community. When he was the Deputy General Manager (International and Treasury) at Bank of Ceylon he was elected the inaugural President of the Primary Dealers Association in Sri Lanka. He was also elected the President of Banks Hindu and Tamil Literary Association. 

He was elected to the Council of Association of Professional Bankers – Sri Lanka (APB) which he served as a member of the Council and as an Office Bearer,until he was elected its President in 2001. After a lapse of a few years he came back to serve the APB as a member of the Fund Management Committee and was its Chairman for a few years, looking after the APB Development Fund. He was awarded the Honorary Life Membership of the APB in recognition of his contribution to the APB. He was thereafter appointed a member of the Council of Advisors of APB.

He was a member of the Forum of the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka the apex body of professional associations in Sri Lanka.He also served in the Panel of Industrial Experts, for the Annual Report Awards Competition conducted by the Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka, for several years. At the time of his demise he was serving as a Member of the Council of Advisors and a Member of the Fund Management Committee of Association of Professional Bankers – Sri Lanka and a Member of the General Forum of the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka

He was a man of undoubted integrity and a fountain of knowledge. He had a very wide circle of friends not only in the banking industry but also in very many specialised fields, some of them being his batch mates at the university who are or were occupying high positions at various governmental and private sector institutions. They were Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others. For him race or religion of a person did not matter. In fact the ringing tones on his mobile phone was always a popular Sinhala song. He was the absolute role model for persons believing in communal harmony. A number of bankers as well as non-bankers made it a habit to seek his advice on various matters as he was able to give them good and sincere advice. 

‘Nada’ was agentleman of the highest order and a fabulous human being, He practised yoga and meditation and encouraged others also to do so as he has benefited immensely by practising them. He was soft spoken, not craving for positions, always with a smile, and what he said came straight from the bottom of his heart. He was an epitome of simplicity humility and modesty. He was always wearing a broad smile and a greeting with ‘God bless you’ was never forgotten. 

He was always keen to help anyone who needed assistance. His friends, relations, colleagues, superiors, subordinates and all loved and respected him. He had no enemies, had no grudges against anyone nor did anyone have a grudge against him. He was a teetotaller and strict vegetarian but he did not want to miss any functions that he was invited to. However, he used to get himself excused from staying on for the dinners saying that his loving wife would be waiting for him.He was a practising and devoted Hindu who never missed any Hindu religious ceremony.

‘Nada’ was very fortunate to have Umayal, as his wife. Shewas always there to support him and never grumbled about his late hours in the bank. They were a happy couple, always together except when he was away on his official duties. According to Hinduism, Lord Shiva and Parvathi were inseparable and Nadarajah (another name for Lord Shiva) and Umayal (another name for Parvathi)were no different, so much so that even when he met with the fatal accident they were together, but by grace of God she escaped miraculously without any major injuries.

Our association with Nada goes back many years with the privilege and pleasure of having been a close friend and colleague for number of years at Bank of Ceylon and later working together at the Association of Professional Bankers – Sri Lanka. His demise is not only a loss to hisfamily, friends and fellow bankers but also to Sri Lanka’s banking industry.

He leaves behind Umayal, his devoted wife, two daughters Mardangini and Ajaahini, and three loving grandchildren who along with his relatives and all his friends will miss him forever. 

May his soul attain Moksha.

(ParamaDharmawardene is former Deputy General Manager, Sampath Bank. A. Kathiravelupillaiis former Deputy General Manager, Bank of Ceylon. Guy de Silva is former Senior Deputy General Manager, Bank of Ceylon.)


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