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APB 29th Anniversary Convention to instil foresight on how banking community should face challenges

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APB’s 29th Anniversary Convention will be held on 21 and 22 November at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo. In this interview APB President Senarath Bandara speaks on the convention volume. Following are excerpts of the interview

Q: Can you briefly mention about the history of APB and its annual conventions?

A: The Association of Professional Bankers, Sri Lanka was formed in July 1988 by a group of dedicated senior bankers, and has been the most represented organisation of banking professionals in the island. APB was formed with a mission to sustain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity among bankers, to advance the public interest and to influence the achievement of the highest ethical standards and governance in banking industry. 

We also function as a forum that brings together leading personalities in business administration to have intellectual discussion in the contemporary banking and economic context. 

From the time of its formation the Association has been successful in achieving its objectives by organising, inter-alia, lectures, seminars and various training programs so as to enable the bankers to keep abreast with the latest developments in their profession. Such programs covered not only the subject of banking but also other related areas such as technology, management, marketing etc. Senior executives of banks are also taking the opportunity to participate in various educational programs organised by the Association on very useful subjects that are of interest to them as banking professionals.

Our activities do not confine to academic and professional development. We hold several social events during each calendar year, such as the members night, sing along….etc that provide our members a great platform to network amongst each other. In the recent years, the Association conducted talent shows giving an opportunity for bankers to unleash their innate talents. As a responsible body of professionals, the Association also engages in CSR activities aiming at helping the community, at large.

The Association completed a decade of service in 1998 and the event was celebrated in a fitting manner by organising several activities over three days. The main event was the symposium on ‘Banking Beyond Year 2000’ for which the guest of honour was Andrew Buxton, Chairman, Barclays Bank London. The event was not only a tremendous success but it became the talking point among those associated with the financial service industry in this country. The success of this event motivated the Association to conduct the convention as an annual event. Since then, the Association continued to conduct annual conventions on themes of contemporary interest. 

In fact the Annual Convention of the APB has become a much awaited event amongst the bankers in Sri Lanka, and is becoming an event recognised in the South Asian region as we draw most of the resource personnel and the keynote speakers from the industry leaders in the region. 

Q: What is the theme of this year’s Annual Convention and its relevance and importance to the industry of Banking and Finance?

A: The theme of this year’s convention is ‘Changing Dynamics: Bank of the Future’. The theme was selected after evaluating many proposals and after many deliberations by the Council due to its relevance and timeliness.

Banking is continuously evolving with the advancement of technology and changing customer behaviour that re-shapes the nature of banking business all the time. Adding to that, tightening regulatory measures pose new challenges for banks in meeting expectations of shareholders and customer demands. It does not stop there. Geo-political environment is getting re-shaped with emergence of Asia as an economic and political power, significant enough for the world to reckon with. In this dynamic environment, banks need to harness opportunities that may come their way and adopt new technologies to deliver greater values to customers. The question is; how banks should prepare for these changes and emerge as winners.

At this year’s Convention, ‘Changing Dynamics’ signifies the changes impacting on banking as described above and it was decided to deliberate on three such distinctive areas; namely geo-political changes, regulatory changes and adoption of new technology. As such, banks are required to redefine their internal procedures and processes while offering competitive services to customers to stay ahead. Adapting to regulatory changes is common to all banks but ability to overcome challenges posed by such changes, vary from bank to bank. On the other hand, adopting of the latest technology is vital. Some banks in the world operate completely on virtual platforms without brick and mortar branches. Banks in Sri Lanka are also moving in that direction. Hence, in future, banks will be completely different to what they are today. This year’s Convention aims to draw the focus of the banking community to these changes and to instil foresight on how they should face these challenges and succeed.

In facing this seemingly unstoppable wave of changes, we have to understand:

  • How the country is benefiting from geo-political changes and to what extent the banks are expected to play a role in it and what are the key areas that banks should focus on?
  • Since banks are operating in a nexus with international banks we are bound to implement new regulations to comply with international norms and standards, but how Sri Lankan banks should implement new regulatory measures and operate under these rules minimising the impact on the bottom line and sustaining the economic benefits? 
  • How banks should prioritise selection of new technologies and adopting them in Sri Lanka?
  • How employees are groomed to work in the digitalised environment?
  • How CEOs view these challenges?

We hope to deliberate on these issues at the Convention.

Q: What are the key features and highlights of this year’s Convention?

A: In every convention we invite an eminent personage from the industry, who has made a significant contribution and has achieved international recognition, to deliver the keynote address. This year we are inviting the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Tariq Bajwa. 

Bajwa has served previously as the Secretary Economic Affairs Division and later as the Secretary-Finance… hence he is a prime candidate to speak on both fiscal and monetary policies of managing an economy.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy will be the Chief Guest. 

The APB will also be publishing the ‘Anniversary Volume’ containing articles from distinguished professionals. Copies of this publication will be presented to distinguished invitees at the Inaugural Session of the Convention to be held on 21 November and to all participants attending the Technical Sessions on 22 November. In addition, copies will be provided to all banks and other financial institutions, libraries of educational entities related to banking and finance and to all universities in the country.

We have observed that the articles in the past volumes have been of immense value to practicing bankers and other professionals in the Banking and Finance sector and also to those who keenly follow the developments in Banking and Finance. This is a unique publication in Sri Lanka in the Banking and Finance field, presented annually which contains valuable researched material.

Another significant event during the inaugural session is the presentation of the Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Banking Industry. This is an annual award and regarded as one of the most prestigious decorations, awarded to a banker in Sri Lanka.

Q: What is the structure of this year’s Convention and how have you lined up the program?

A: As I stated earlier, the Convention will be held for two days, Inaugural Sessions on Tuesday, 21 November and the Technical Sessions on Wednesday, 22 November.

The technical sessions will commence with a curtain raiser and conclude with the CEOs forum.

Technical sessions are structured resembling a journey through a storm seeking greener pastures, taking the participant through different dimensions of the issue that is being addressed. There are seven technical presentations arranged in an interest arousing manner, titled Trade-winds Redirected (covering Geo-political and Economic landscape), Pathfinders to the fore (Preparing bankers to embrace change), Rules of the Game (three distinct areas of regulations vis. BASEL III, IFRS 9 and Compliant Customer), The Encoded World (digitalisation of banking), and soldiers of the brave new world (preparing employees).

We have lined up these sessions sandwiched between the panel discussions so as to keep the participants excited and to give maximum take home value. In this way, we shall incorporate the entire spectrum of knowledge that is relevant to the banking industry on three areas; dynamic geo-political environment, new regulations and new technologies, in foreseeing the future bank.

Q: What are the expected audiences and what benefits the participants could expect by attending this Convention?

A: This event is open to all bankers, and not limited to our members, because our aim is to create an awareness of changes taking place around us today and preparing bankers to adapt successfully. We expect the participation of both young and senior bankers at this event. As experienced in the previous years we expect a full-house of more than 350 registrants.

There are many fora being organised annually by different bodies on various subjects including the economy, IT, etc but this is the only forum organised by bankers, for the bankers focusing on areas that are directly relevant to the banking industry. We can recognise this year’s Convention as a symposium being held at cross roads where bankers 

are challenged to find their path to the future in a new era with re-defined geo-political order, new regulations, in a digitalised environment.

The participants will learn both challenges and opportunities posed to them and how they are expected to adjust themselves to the new order in performing their jobs differently.

We are sure the participants will take the wisdom offered by the convention back to their respective employers, thereby navigating through challenges with confidence, harnessing the opportunities and adapting to the new age, successfully.

A: As President of APB what is the message you have for your members 

and other bankers 

A: Having survived multiple economic cycles, waves of political and social unrest, bankers have survived the worst of times. Bankers are agile, adaptable and sometimes adventurous to foresee the best of times. 

Now is a testing time: We need to adjust to the changing dynamics, learn and adapt to the new climate. Then we can march ahead with the conviction that all changing dynamics are within our control. We are eager to reap the benefits it offers overcoming challenges.

We should be geared up to play our role in the collective participation of the civil society in the changing world.

Q: When and where are you having this year’s Convention?

A: The Inaugural Session will be held at the Cinnamon Grand, Colombo on Tuesday, 21 November commencing 6 p.m. followed by cocktails and the Technical Sessions will be held on the following day, Wednesday 22 November at the same venue. 



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