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In Conversation with SAFA Women Leadership Awardee Ranjani Joseph

The KPMG Partner reflects on her career arc and the role of accountants

In Conversation with SAFA Women Leadership Awardee Ranjani Joseph

Ranjani Joseph - Partner, Head of Banking and Markets, and Deputy Head of Audit of KPMG Sri Lanka

Ranjani Joseph, Partner, Head of Banking and Markets, and Deputy Head of Audit at KPMG Sri Lanka, reflects on her recent achievement of winning the coveted SAFA Women Leadership Award. In this interview, she shares insights into her career journey, addresses the challenges confronting the accounting profession during economic crises, and offers guidance for aspiring female leaders in accounting. The SAFA Women Leadership Award recognizes exceptional women within the South Asian Federation of Accountants’ Member Bodies, aiming to highlight their remarkable achievements, inspire confidence, and establish them as role models in the region.

What does the SAFA Women Leadership Award for the Best Practitioner 2024 mean to you?

Receiving this award is truly a culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and passion. It reinforces the idea that it doesn’t matter where you come from, if you have the passion and determination you can still make an impact.

Moreover, this recognition underscored the pivotal role of support, particularly from family and institutions. Personally, it symbolized my transformation from a homemaker to a valued Partner, showcasing the support I received from my family, my firm, KPMG Sri Lanka, who provided unwavering support, as well as CA Sri Lanka who provided the platform to showcase my skills and expertise. Overall, this award serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, support, and opportunity.

Looking back at your career trajectory, what are the important lessons you have learned that helped you rise to the pinnacle of your career? 

As I learned firsthand when I joined KPMG Sri Lanka as the oldest trainee, age should never be a barrier to pursuing your passion. Hard work is indispensable for success in life; it’s a fundamental ingredient for success. Striving for excellence is crucial for making a difference and earning respect, and it requires continuous learning and sacrifice of personal time to sharpen your skills.

Seize every opportunity that comes your way instead of waiting for the perfect moment, as I did when I accepted the challenge to work with KPMG Melbourne in 1999. Embracing such challenges can significantly impact personal growth and confidence. Additionally, recognize the importance of teamwork and developing leadership qualities, ensuring that your team feels supported and empowered.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to speak up when necessary. Many young professionals, especially women, tend to give up too easily. Pushing boundaries and seeking alternatives can lead to unexpected opportunities and support systems that are often readily available but overlooked because we fail to ask.

Can you tell us about your current role and what about it excites you the most, in the context of the ongoing economic challenges?

As an Audit Partner and Head of Banking, my role has evolved significantly, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis. We had to devise suitable approaches to support the banking sector, addressing unprecedented challenges such as accounting treatment for moratoriums and the impact of pre-emptive default on foreign currency-denominated ISBs and SLDBs. Collaborating with CA Sri Lanka and receiving support from KPMG’s regional and global offices was instrumental in navigating these uncharted waters.

Leading the KPMG Team on the Asset Quality Review on the banking sector, under IMF requirements, was another one-of-a-kind experience for our teams. We had to develop new methodologies to deliver the reports that met the specific requirements of the stakeholders. Currently, we are engaged in ongoing discussions with the Central Bank and IMF representatives to address issues like potential financial implications of debt restructuring and credit quality amid the economic crisis.

In my capacity as Head of Markets, I’m also tasked with enhancing our firm’s market presence amidst increasing competition in this changing environment. This presents a fresh set of challenges, but also opportunities for innovation and market expansion. Despite the difficulties, navigating through these unprecedented challenges has provided invaluable learning experiences, positioning us distinctively within the KPMG network.

What is the role of the accounting profession as we confront hard choices and difficult adjustments?

The accounting profession must continue to adopt a proactive stance in response to evolving challenges, particularly in light of the current economic crisis. Traditional accounting approaches may no longer be sufficient to navigate the complexities of today’s environment. Both practising firms and professionals in the market must anticipate uncertainties and play a pivotal role in guiding companies through forecasting and decision-making processes. Firmness in professional positions is essential amidst uncertainty, ensuring trust and maintaining quality standards in audits and financial reporting. Focus on doing what is “Right” must be established to uphold integrity and enhance market confidence in accounting professionals and professional firms. Consistency within practising firms is vital to present a unified viewpoint to clients on critical matters, mitigating the tendency for clientele to seek multiple opinions, thus ensuring stability and trust in the market. Additionally, prioritizing the development of young professionals is crucial, especially given the current exodus of talent during the economic downturn.

How would you inspire aspiring female leaders in accounting, given the scarcity of strong female role models in the field?

Every woman must recognize her value and potential to contribute to the world, building her own identity beyond traditional roles. It’s never too late to pursue one’s aspirations, even after marriage or childbirth, with the right support network and determination. Learning to withstand pressure and speaking up is crucial for female professionals, supported by evolving changes in support systems especially with male champions. By pushing boundaries, developing competencies, and fostering passion, women can unleash their full potential and contribute meaningfully to society. I envision a future where every woman’s contribution is valued, her voice heard, and her potential unleashed, and I’m inspired by the innovative spirit of the upcoming generation of female leaders. 

BoC: Fostering Opportunities in International Trade, Finance and Investment

The country’s largest bank continues to support the economic revival by facilitating foreign currency inflows, trade, and investments


  1. A. Jayashantha – Deputy General Manager for International, Treasury and Investment of BoC


G.A. Jayashantha, Deputy General Manager for International, Treasury and Investment at Sri Lanka’s largest bank, the Bank of Ceylon (BoC), reflects on the economic revival and the bank’s continuing efforts to place the country on a sustainable footing. 

As DGM – International, Treasury & Investment at BoC, how do you view the division’s role in facilitating economic activity?

My division covers a broad scope, including Treasury, International, Investment, and Overseas Branch Operations, managing branches in Seychelles, Maldives, and Chennai.

A dedicated Dealing Room, staffed by experienced professionals, manages local and international transactions, ensuring liquidity across key financial markets. Operating in key financial markets like the money market, FX, derivatives, and capital markets, they handle a diverse range of financial products and oversee the bank’s core operations.

The Asset and Liability Management unit optimizes balance sheet management, aligning funding sources with end users, maximizing income, and minimizing risk in line with market conditions and regulatory requirements, ensuring competitiveness.

 The Investment Banking Division oversees the bank’s investment transactions, structures debenture issues for capital requirements, and manages customer assets and securities through Portfolio Management Services (PMS) and Custodian Services. We offer investment plans and supervise internal investments.

The Overseas Branches unit oversees our global operations, including a fully-owned subsidiary in London, UK, governed by a separate Board chaired by the BOC Chairman. Staffed by a blend of local and foreign employees, key roles are appointed from our Colombo Head Office.

As the largest and primary recipient of inward remittances, we supply foreign exchange for vital commodity imports like Petroleum, LP Gas, and Coal. During the economic crisis, we played a crucial role by assisting the health sector to procure COVID-19 vaccines for immunization.

Our presence in the FX market significantly influences the management of exchange and interest rates of the country, fostering market stability and sustaining liquidity in both foreign and local currencies. Despite the sovereign downgrade in 2022, we swiftly reclaimed a higher position by honouring obligations, averting defaults, and managing short-term borrowings effectively. This resilience and strategic approach have positioned us as a key player in the national economy, acknowledged by the Central Bank as a systemically important bank.

Could you share details of recent initiatives or products that helped the bank’s clients during the challenging period?

We launched the “Foreign Circle” to cater to the needs of foreign expatriates, offering quick access to BoC for various services like account opening and transactions. This central hub, staffed with specialized personnel and three dedicated lines, ensures efficient service for expatriate customers.

In 2022 and 2023, our Smart Remit System underwent significant upgrades, allowing instant receipt of remittances from any location worldwide. These enhancements resulted in a year-on-year increase in both the volume and value of remittances in 2023. This growth is attributed to the user-friendly system and extensive support from the Foreign Circle. This single point of contact has significantly boosted our remittance base and sustained our market position.

Furthermore, we pioneered INR transactions in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with our Chennai Branch, to facilitate trade and financial exchanges with India. This initiative has resulted in a significant uptick in transactions and benefits for importers and exporters.

The multi-currency travel card (MCTC) with sophisticated features played a key role in meeting customers’ foreign currency needs. Capable of holding up to five currencies, the MCTC  prioritizes safety and convenience. During the challenging period, when carrying physical currency was an issue, the MCTC provided a seamless solution on par with international banks.

We provide pre-departure loans to individuals seeking foreign employment, addressing their financial challenges. With increased loan amounts and reduced interest rates, migrant workers find it easier to cover initial overseas expenses. As a market leader in this service, loans are available for various countries. Through collaboration with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, the bank has disbursed numerous pre-departure loans, fulfilling a national duty.

What is your outlook for the economy in terms of the banking subjects you focus on, and how is the bank positioned to unlock new opportunities for the bank, its clients, and the economy?

Presently, the economy is rebounding after six quarters of negative GDP growth, signalling optimism. BoC acknowledges the challenges confronting our SME and corporate clients. In response, we’re focusing on revitalizing businesses with greater potential and viability in the economy. This involves providing financial support and implementing restructuring/rescheduling strategies instead of resorting to strict recovery/legal measures. So far, we’re seeing positive outcomes from these efforts and are closely monitoring their progress for sustainable advancement.

Our proactive stance led the financial industry to adopt a similar supportive framework for the entire banking sector, fostering a unified effort towards economic recovery. BoC was pivotal in shaping this new segment, and it’s encouraging to witness the collective banking community embracing these revival initiatives.

The ongoing journey towards economic stabilization involves restructuring both domestic and external debt. We were successful in the domestic debt restructuring process which covered SLDBs and FCBU loans while ensuring the stability of the market and the well-being of the bank. With the impending restructuring process, we believe the bank can continue to do its best for the economy while maintaining a sound financial position going forward. We anticipate reshaping our banking business to capitalize on the positive outcomes of debt restructuring. This includes enhancing the bank’s international ratings and improving our foreign presence by establishing and strengthening relationships with correspondent partners. As the restructuring progresses, we anticipate increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), facilitating large-scale capital projects, and positioning the Bank to capitalize on remittance growth and business opportunities.

We aim to strategically expand our focus on private sector businesses while serving financially and competitively viable State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). Through gradual restructuring, we anticipate a boost in the bank’s capital, enhancing our business capacity and enabling us to expand our strategic objectives.

As such, the bank is in the process of implementing its IT infrastructure and improving the digital frontline in the branch network.  We’re also equipping our workforce with the knowledge, skills, and professionalism to leverage economic and technological advancements.

This positive outlook positions BoC as a catalyst for economic recovery, unlocking new opportunities. Through strategic engagement and innovative financial solutions, we aim to significantly contribute to the nation’s revival, benefiting clients and the broader economy.