Awards for Excellence 2023: Best bank in Sri Lanka – Sampath Bank
It has been a tough year for Sri Lanka and for the banks operating in the country. Just as the island was exiting the worst of the Covid crisis, Sri Lankans were faced with political upheaval, an economy on the brink of collapse and shortages of everything from food to fuel.
Dwindling foreign reserves and surging foreign debt plunged the country into its worst economic crisis in 75 years. The banking sector was in the firing line and had to shift gears rapidly, cutting lending and de-risking rapidly. Sampath Bank turned in a standout performance in extremely adverse conditions under managing director Nanda Fernando, faring better than its rivals while remaining close to those in most need of funding.
Net interest income in 2022 rose 76.4% year on year to SLRs73.5 billion ($236 million), while net fee and commission income also grew. Importantly, profits after tax rose by 5.4% to SLRs13.1 billion at a time when most other big banks saw a sharp fall.
Sampath did have to boost its impairment charges to SLRs62.7 billion from SLRs17.1 billion, given the likelihood of more loans souring in the tough economic climate. This also took into account haircuts on its investments in Sri Lanka’s international sovereign bonds and development bonds. This is a prudent approach to managing asset quality.
Sampath – the third-largest private-sector bank by assets in Sri Lanka – does have solid capital ratios on which to rely. Its year-end common equity tier-1 ratio of 11.92% and its total capital ratio of 14.27% are above the regulatory minimums.