“Tradition and modernity must be equal in our digitalisation” | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

“Tradition and modernity must be equal in our digitalisation”

11 April, 2021

Never before in our 80 years of existence have we faced the odds we are facing today. The pandemic has, for over an year now, crippled world economies and laid to waste business and commerce. With it has come a sea change in the way we look at doing business, i.e. we have begun to see digitalisation with fresh eyes.

When it comes to the digitalisation of our bank we cannot and will not compromise on that one thing — our personal touch or the human engagement of our services. Digitalisation can become impersonal given the very nature of the animal.

We are building hybrid systems that will help us face the challenges of the new world order. This is where digitalisation interfaces with human resources.

Our plan is to ensure that tradition and modernity will have equal places going forward.

We will not cast aside traditional engagement with our customers who visit our brank branches located in the little towns of their rural villages, just to sit with one of our bank managers for a chat. For decades we have used the knowledge gained from these informal chats to understand the market we operate in.

This grassroot local information has helped guide and direct our policies; and it is the emotional intelligence that has formed the backbone of our existence.

From 1961, when the bank was made into a national institution, we have supported our governments to achieve their goals be it in food security, improving productivity, ensuring sustainable incomes for the rural sector or strengthening trade and commerce.

It is this same thinking that we take into other areas of our expansion — rethinking our traditional engagements with customers.

We have set up a think tank that is looking into newer types of business that are emerging; like new start-ups. How do we lend to people who have no collateral but their knowledge? And how do we manage risk, especially since we are well aware that out of 10 start-ups only two may become a success? So emotional intelligence will have to play a role in this process, rather than sole reliance on artificial intelligence to make that decision — to lend or not to lend.

It is with this thinking that we have joined hands with the Federation of Information Technology Industries (FITIS), to support their inaugural Internet Day as platinum sponsor. We believe that such engagements and interactions have to be supported in order to broaden this discussion with all stakeholders.

We are very encouraged to see that they have drawn in experts from other countries to be part of this event. The internet is not just one or another thing, it is everything just like banking.

As we traverse this digitalised world we have to find common ground with it and create interfaces that are not only robotic but also human. Yes, we need automation, but if we lose the human touch we cannot operate in a real world.

The writer is the General Manager of the Bank of Ceylon.