Chiranthi Cooray has a specific mandate; to tear down rigid structures and transform the people and culture at listed Hatton National Bank (HNB) to face the challenges of a digital world. Technological upheaval is transforming how people do things, including banking. Fintechs and telcos are getting their fingers into financial services and competing with banks.
For the past several years, HNB has been meeting the challenge head-on, rolling out a digital transformation strategy. Investing in technology has centralised generational operations and credit functions. Tasks managed by branches like housekeeping, accounting, reconciliations, credit documentation and collections are all centralised. The bank is mostly paperless now. Previously, 80% of a branch office’s work was back-office related while 20% was related to customer engagement. HNB has now flipped that equation.
Cooray recalls when she joined the bank, the silence on her floor was deafening. Today, it’s a hub of activity, with young people at the forefront.
But Cooray’s role at HNB goes beyond just transforming the operations of the bank. Her appointment was to fulfil a broader goal: to ensure that the culture and people involved weren’t being left behind. Cooray joined HNB to head human resources (HR). She focused the last five years on putting a ‘human face to HR’. The need to transform has resulted in subtle differences around the office. Cooray recalls when she joined the company, the silence on her floor was deafening.
Today, it’s a hub of activity, with young people at the forefront. Transformation may mean different things to different people. When it comes to a national-level banking institution steeped in 130 years of tradition with over 5,000 employees, the level of complexity associated with that takes on a whole new level. Cooray suggests the need to adapt must be balanced with preserving the strength of the heritage.
By transforming the centre of their hub-and-spoke model, the hope is that these cultural shifts will filter through to branches and their staff, who will be more in-tune with their customers’ needs. With the focus on a more digitally savvy and receptive employee-base, this people-first approach is the key behind Cooray’s drive for change.