Ganga Wanigaratne, Assistant Vice President – Operations, Trade Finance, Payments and Treasury Operations of National Development Bank PLC reflects on the bank’s focus on diversity, inclusion and equality to empower women within and beyond its doors.
As a woman in a leadership role at NDB, how has the bank empowered you to realise your career objectives?
NDB has been instrumental in empowering me to realise my career objectives. I am grateful to leaders past and present who have constantly measured employees on merit and never on gender. As a woman in a leadership role overseeing the branch operations, I have experienced firsthand the trust and autonomy the bank places in its leaders. This freedom to manage my areas and pursue initiatives has enabled me to make a tangible impact and drive my career forward.
NDB is not merely committed to diversity and inclusion; it is a trailblazer in this regard. The bank’s dedication to empowering women to be key drivers of the economy is evident in its leadership structure, where women hold critical positions and serve as an inspiration for others. The bank’s diverse workforce, spanning age, experience, and professional qualifications, provides an enriching environment for growth and development.
One significant manifestation of NDB’s commitment to gender equality is the EDGE Gender Certification, which I initiated in 2018. NDB is the first organisation in the nation to achieve this global standard, a testament to its women’s representation, pay equity, and inclusive policies. This certification showcases how NDB has empowered me and other women to excel and realise our career ambitions within a diverse, inclusive, and supportive work environment.
NDB has been instrumental in providing both empowerment and clear direction for my career journey. I appreciate the bank’s commitment to merit-based evaluations, which has enabled me to focus on my role. Furthermore, NDB’s leadership structure, which includes women in critical positions, provides a clear direction for promoting diversity and inclusion. These women serve as role models, inspiring others to excel in their roles.
NDB is known for its commitment to empowering women, with initiatives like NDB Banking on Women and NDB Araliya. Can you tell us more about the impact of such products and services on women customers and how they contribute to their financial empowerment?
NDB’s commitment to empowering women through initiatives like NDB Banking on Women (BOW) and NDB Araliya is truly transformative. BOW is not just a product; it’s a comprehensive platform designed to uplift women financially. It bridges the accessibility gap to quality financing and advisory support, making financial empowerment accessible to women from all walks of life.
NDB BOW offers financial support and non-financial services, catalyzing greater female participation in Sri Lanka’s economy. This, in turn, contributes to the country’s overall GDP growth.
Under the NDB Araliya proposition, which is part of NDB BOW, women customers have access to various financial assistance options, including loans and credit cards, along with savings plans that provide insurance coverage for account holders and their immediate family members. The extensive advisory support and guidance provided through NDB Araliya have significantly benefited female customers nationwide, fostering their financial prosperity.
Furthermore, NDB BOW offers CSR initiatives such as knowledge-sharing sessions on topics like management, leadership, digital selling platforms, and personal well-being. These sessions empower women, helping them achieve their financial and career goals.
The NDB Vanithabhimana programme is aimed at uplifting women in the Sri Lankan economy. Could you elaborate on the specific strategies and initiatives that the bank has in place to achieve this goal? What outcomes or successes have been achieved so far?
The NDB Vanithabhimana programme, part of the NDB Banking on Women (BOW) platform, was launched in 2020 to empower women in the Sri Lankan economy. In collaboration with NewsFirst, it serves as a national-level award and recognition platform, celebrating women’s remarkable achievements and inspiring others to excel. The programme covers various award categories, including entrepreneurship (both Small and Medium), upcoming entrepreneurs, sports, young leaders, social services, education, and art and literature.
What makes this programme successful is its rigorous evaluation process, involving professionals and experts from diverse fields to honour high-achieving women in each category. But it doesn’t stop at recognition; it extends to offering hands-on support. Shortlisted applicants receive one-on-one reviews at the provincial level, where five winners per category per province are chosen for the national-level grand finale.
This competition aims to attract participants from various backgrounds, including differently-abled individuals, marginalised groups, and those from remote areas who have never had the chance to showcase their talents and innovative ventures before.
NDB Vanithabhimana goes beyond recognition by offering financial and advisory support throughout the entrepreneurial journeys of these exceptional women. The programme identifies scalable business ventures and creates opportunities to expand their market reach.
What steps has NDB taken to promote and support women in leadership roles and within its branch network?
We’ve established dedicated mentorship and leadership development programmes tailored to women. These programmes provide guidance and the skills necessary for women to rise into leadership positions.
In our bank, we actively promote equal opportunities for women, creating a fair and equitable working environment. This commitment extends to our branch network, where we prioritise gender equality in recruitment and career advancement.
To support work-life balance, we’ve introduced women-friendly policies, including extended maternity leave which is over and above statutory requirements, flexible working arrangements, such as remote working facilities, flexible work hours, etc., and bank-arranged transportation. Our concessionary canteen facilities further contribute to a more supportive environment.
Furthermore, NDB Bank upholds essential policies to enhance our workplace culture which is endorsed by the Bank’s recognition as one of Sri Lanka’s Most Outstanding Women Friendly Workplaces by SATYN and CIMA. These include Equal Opportunity, Anti-Harassment, and Whistleblowing policies, all of which are integral to fostering a progressive, respectful, and inclusive atmosphere within the organisation.
As I stated earlier, our dedication to women’s empowerment goes beyond the workplace. Initiatives like NDB Banking on Women and NDB Vanithabhimana celebrate women’s achievements and provide financial and advisory support. This underscores our commitment to women’s success in their careers and entrepreneurial ventures.