By A Special Correspondent
DFCC BANK PLC celebrates its 60th birthday this month. It is customary on occasions such as this to reflect on the years that have passed, the challenges faced, the successes and the key landmarks of the journey. However, at this historic moment, it is far more pertinent to comment on a new development that will no doubt change the course of the bank’s operations, a new beginning that considerably enhances the stature, reach and financial strength of DFCC: the merger with the bank’s almost wholly owned subsidiary, DFCC VARDHANA BANK.
DFCC was founded in 1955 and is one of the oldest development banks in Asia. The mandate from the beginning was to focus on development for the benefit of the nation.
DFCC has for six decades been the quiet but effective strength behind many trail-blazing entrepreneurs, especially in their early and risky start-up stages. Today many of them are leading players in sectors such as agriculture, apparel, construction, food and beverages, healthcare, manufacturing, power, telecom and tourism. They have directly or indirectly enhanced the well-being of the entire nation and its citizenry. DFCC is justifiably proud of its unpretentious history in this success story.
As important is the pioneering role that DFCC has played in leading the development of key sectors such as small and medium enterprises, resort hotels, mobile telecommunication and more recently renewable energy. In recent times DFCC also ventured into new and complementary areas of business such as investment banking, unit trusts, stock broking, venture capital, industrial estate management, consulting and IT services.
Throughout, the bank has been extremely conscious of changing and new realities, adapting and evolving and yet remaining unwavering in its commitment to the development mandate. It was thus in early 2000 that DFCC decided to embark on a journey of transformation where it evolved into a financial services group which culminated with the acquisition of Merc Bank, previously known as the National Enterprise Bank, set up in 1996. A month later, in September 2003, it was rebranded as DFCC Vardhana Bank. DFCC Vardhana Bank functioned as DFCC’s 99.17% owned commercial banking subsidiary, a unique model which provided for diversification and a more prudent balance of risk and return.
With a history of just 12 years, Vardhana is a vibrant and efficient bank, known for its outstanding contribution and customer service. This is why it is widely accepted as Sri Lanka’s most trusted and caring bank, as well as the country’s fastest growing bank. At the time it merged with DFCC, its assets were almost Rs. 120 billion – the fastest bank to reach the Rs. 100 billion mark in 11 short years.
The vast experience of DFCC and the phenomenal rise of Vardhana made an amalgamation logical and indeed inevitable. The two entities have worked hard since January this year to ensure the merger was seamless and did not disrupt the operations of either bank. They dedicated themselves to making this happen and drove the process forward, sometimes under very difficult conditions. The amalgamated bank is a full-service bank with a distinct development bias. The combined size and reach of the amalgamated entity and the synergies created will enable DFCC to deliver sustainable solutions for all stakeholders by creating a powerful platform for growth.
This is why, on the occasion of completing 60 years, DFCC is compelled to leave aside its history and focus on the strengths of the new DFCC BANK. Indeed it is that history which makes this possible and makes the new bank a game-changer. It said one's past influences the future, and who we were predicates what we will become- the best of both worlds. It is a commercial bank, with the rich experience of 60 decades of helping the nation’s industries grow, a trusted name now able to offer all services and conveniences to DFCC clients.
Several factors had to come together to yield this happy outcome. Apart from experience and expertise, exceptional leadership was a critical factor. DFCC was led by Arjun Fernando, a quiet, hardworking, dignified man who could fight tenaciously without even seeming to fight. His counterpart in Vardhana, Lakshman Silva, in contrast is a flamboyant character, a fighter and an achiever of no less merit.
The merger brings these two extraordinary leaders in the industry into a single team, the former as CEO and the latter as Deputy CEO. It is a phenomenal combination whichever way you want to look at it. They are different in their ways and in their expertise and will no doubt complement one another and help the amalgam reach its full potential. The merger then not only brings together two strong brands and institutions but puts in a single team of exceptional leaders with strong and proven credentials. They are moreover, backed by a staff endowed with seriousness of purpose, long experience, knowledge and commitment to the organisation. In fact it cannot be overstated that the success of DFCC and Vardhana is in great measure due to the human resources that overwhelmingly privilege deed over word.
They are also happily privileged to have in Royle Jansz a dynamic Chairman who has the experience, expertise and the leadership to maintain coherence and focus. He is a bold, methodical and committed man who enjoys the respect and has the confidence of the entire staff. He is the ideal man to oversee the operations of two strong financial institutions that have decided to journey together.
This historic merger will no doubt expand the scope of overall operations while resulting in a significant drop in costs. It will enable lending at competitive rates while providing faster and efficient services offering customers a wide range of technology-based and IT-based products. In short the amalgam would have a development banking focus with commercial banking facilities.
DFCC Group currently enjoys a fair share in the financial industry. As the gelling of the two entities moves towards completion, DFCC will in all likelihood surprise both the competition and the customers. The commitment to excellence, emphasis on professionalism, loyalty to the company and other complementary attributes clearly indicate even better days to come.
Therefore, this diamond jubilee constitutes a double celebration. First, a long journey of commitment to development and nation building upon which one can only look back with satisfaction and even incredulity. Secondly, the laying of a foundation for a new partnership that rededicates DFCC to its mandate while expanding its scope of operations with the ultimate objective of serving better the nation’s development needs and the banking needs of the citizens. It is a challenge certainly, but one which is embraced with the confidence that can only come from deep engagement, long experience and exceptional skills acquired over the years.