By Jonathan Alles, Managing Director /CEO – HNB
In recent weeks, you may have noticed a brighter and more vibrant look and feel taking hold across HNB’s branch network, and with it, a new kind of energy from our team.
Viewed in isolation these may seem like surface-level change, however, relative to HNB’s decade-long transformational journey, this new look and increased level of focus from our team in fact represents the culmination of an ambitious journey to realign an organization and its rich legacy of 134 years to a simple and singular idea: we wanted to make HNB a joy to bank with.
The roll out of our redesigned brand image is therefore our team’s way of saying that we are now ready to deliver a single, seamless experience to our customers. One that delivers on that promise across every one of our customer touchpoints – be they brick-and-mortar branches, or out in the digital space.
To meet such a powerful commitment required a bottom -to-top reimagining of what a bank is, how it operates, and the role it should serve in the lives of our customers.
Evolving with the times
We understood that we had to stay true to our original goal of serving as a partner in progress to every Sri Lankan. However, given the changes that have taken place in our society, and the challenges we face moving forward, we had to account for the fact that the very definition of what progress means for the average Sri Lankan has completely changed from when our bank was first established in the hills of Hatton in 1888.
Since then, our nation, its people, and the banking industry have all evolved. Technological advancements have taken the act of banking from being an infrequent, but deeply personal interaction between customers and bank staff, to a series of near daily interactions that are short, and increasingly mediated by devices and screens.
Our challenge was two-fold. We had to continuously enhance our service capabilities in order to meet the rapidly evolving demands of modern consumers, who increasingly expect banking services to be reliably and instantly accessible at their fingertips.
But we also had to ensure that in our aggressive pivot into digital banking, that we did not lose the character, and the vibrancy of the vital personal relationships that continue to form the core of our business. In short, to truly serve as a partner in progress, we had to evolve our capabilities – at both an individual and intuitional scale – to match the changing aspirations of a new generation of Sri Lankans.
Accordingly, we sought to take active control of the brand and its evolution. Firstly, this required our team to refocus its efforts around delivering four central experiences to customers. We wanted to ensure that every customer that comes to HNB feels comfortable, reassured, valued and delighted.
This meant our touch points had to be more efficient and agile, while serving customers needs in a manner that was informative and transparent, while also being proactive and relevant with our recommendations for HNB products and services, so that ultimately, our service would be personal, and our customers would feel respected at all times.
Our efforts over the past decade in transforming our people, processes and technology were fundamental to delivering on that promise. This process started with a complete strategic reform of governance, adherence, compliance and risk management structures, which in turn cleared the way for centralization of core banking processes, leading to the establishment of centralised hubs for retail credit, collections, recoveries, credit operations, credit administration and secure repository.
In 2013, HNB set up a Process Improvement and Change Management Department, responsible for re-engineering age-old processes handed down through generations. The centralised hubs were then fitted with the skills necessary to free up the branch network and engage in quality customer interactions.
Most importantly, the launch of Project Everest, which commenced in 2018 to drive the digital transformation of banking by designing products and services, while enhancing capacity within its teams and updating its culture to be future-ready.
COVID disruptions served to further accelerate the bank’s digital transformation in order to provide expand access to contactless banking solutions, payments and settlements. HNB also expedited the development of its mobile wallet HNB SOLO, while carving out digital layers to create safe and secure work from home systems to provide essential banking services.
The time saved from these optimisations freed up our branch teams to focus on building up their relationships with customers, and develop their own expertise leveraging the Learning and Development programmes and support offered by HNB, and most importantly, providing advisory services, and solving real problems for customers at the ground level.
The benefits of cost optimisations were also re-directed either into incentive programmes for employees, or utilized to fund further technological capacity upgrades, and the revamping of our products and services across the bank, with a special emphasis on digitally enabled banking.
This in turn led to several innovations in digital banking, including a complete update to our digital banking app, and the launch of our breakthrough mobile and QR payments app, SOLO. Parallel to these innovations, we also introduced a slew of digital platforms in service of enterprises and MSMEs, including our Internet Payment Gateway (IPG) system, as well as HNB AppiGo, an affordable integrated end-to-end platform to enable small businesses to enter the e-commerce space.
Looking to the future, our goal is nothing less than the establishment of a new paradigm for banking excellence, not just in Sri Lanka, but across the Asian region as well. Given the historic down-turn in our nation’s economy, there may be those who feel we ought to be aiming for more modest outcomes. But we disagree. At such a crucial juncture, our choice to move ahead with this next phase in our transformational journey is aimed not only at inspiring our own team and celebrating the incredible progress that they have achieved over the past decade, but also for our customers, and our nation. This moment of crisis is exactly the right time to set our goals ambitiously.
With the launch of this updated brand identity, and all of the transformation that we have undergone to get to this point, we hope our message is clear. If we can harness the creativity, energy, intelligence, determination and resilience of our people, over the medium-long term, HNB is extremely bullish on our nation’s future, and we are committed to continue serving as a true partner in progress to all Sri Lankans, especially in the tough times ahead.
As a systematically important institution in the Sri Lankan economy, we want to demonstrate through our work, and our presence, that we are stepping forward to meet the challenges our nation faces head-on, and overcome them together with unity. We invite all Sri Lankans to be a part of this journey.