21 May 2010

Sri Lanka's Bank of Ceylon Foreign Remittance Receipts up by 23pct in April 2010

21st May 2010, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Inward remittances handled by Sri Lanka's Bank of Ceylon (BOC) rose 22.7 percent in April 2010 despite other private commercial banks eating into its market share, a senior official said. "We see that our inward remittances are growing because people are sending hard currencies for savings and investments," Gamini Wickramasinghe, chairman of BOC told LBO.

"The blue collar workers are remitting more to increase their savings and investments."

Inward remittances through the bank have been rising every month since the beginning of this year.

In March they were up 24.4 percent to 16.3 billion rupees and in April rose 22.7 percent to 16.2 billion rupees from the previous year, Wickramasinghe said.

State-owned BOC is Sri Lanka's largest commercial bank.

In 2009 the bank received nearly 1.6 billion dollars in foreign remittances.

However, despite the good run BOC's inward remittances market share has steadily eroded because of fierce competition from private banks, Wickramasinghe said.

In 2008 BOC's market share was over 50 percent, but a year later had dipped under 50 percent, Wickramasinghe said.

"Everyone is fighting to increase market share," Wickramasinghe said. "The competition is stiff and we (BOC) are formulating new strategies to maintain market share."

He said BOC has introduced a pension scheme linked to remittances to attract more migrant workers to use the bank to remit their money home and encourage existing customers to stay with the bank.

Part of the remittances will be deducted monthly and put in a separate account from which money can be withdraw after workers retire at 55 years.

Most expatriate workers, despite working for years abroad, hardly save anything when they return to Sri Lanka, Wickramasinghe said.

"We are targeting our pensions scheme for the blue color workers as most of them when they retire they don't get pension," Wickramasinghe said.

Nearly 7.5 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million population work mostly in blue collar jobs in Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Dubai, Lebanon and Syria.

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