An Echelon Media Company
Wednesday February 1st, 2023

Orient Finance: Driving Growth Through Customer-Centricity

K. M. M. Jabir Director / Chief Executive Officer, Orient Finance PLC

This JXG group finance company is turning the business around with a customer-centric growth model.

Orient Finance plc, a JXG group company, is upending the traditional lender-borrower relationship with a customer-centric model that places people at the heart of its interests. For instance, when the covid19 lockdowns devastated businesses and livelihoods, orient finance opted to help them recover their business through debt restructuring. This customer-centricity is revolutionizing its approach to developing and distributing financial products and services and helping it grow its base of loyal customers. The results so far speak for themselves.

Amidst the covid-19 pandemic and an unfolding economic crisis, orient finance reported a 134% profit growth for the 2021/22 financial year, growing its deposit base by 5.88% and expanding its loan book by 23.4%. Importantly, and reflecting the appreciation of customers, orient finance halved its gross NPLs from the previous year. Its NPL had not only halved but was nearly half the industry average for 2021/22.

M. M. Jabir, Director / chief executive officer of Orient Finance plc, shares insights into this customer-centric business model and how employee well-being and digital transformation factor into its inclusive growth strategy.

How has Orient Finance performed over the past few years during perhaps the most challenging time for the economy in recent memory?

The economy has had a bumpy ride since the Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic presented challenges unprecedented in scale and intensity, with the lockdowns grinding economic activity to a halt. Businesses struggled, and many people had to contend with job losses or deep salary cuts on top of the supply constraints for essentials. Just as it seemed the country was moving out of that crisis, Sri Lanka plunged into its worst economic crisis in history. The challenge for banks and finance companies throughout this period was stemming the erosion of their balance sheets as borrowers laboured to service their loans: a problem growing in intensity even now.

At Orient Finance, we adopted a contrarian approach to the twin crises. Early in the pandemic, we decided to focus on the well-being of our customers, adopting the mantra ‘Your Customer Must Survive and Thrive for You to Survive and Thrive’ across the company.

Once we took measures to enhance the well-being of our people and secure their safety, we began to roll out our strategy as a team unified by a common purpose to assist our customers through the economic crisis.

We engaged all our customers to assess their circumstances and address their unique needs. At the time, Orient Finance was probably the only lending institution that introduced flexible loan repayment plans, allowing customers to pay whatever they decide they can until cashflows improve. We also introduced a special-purpose working capital loan to help businesses navigate the challenges of the lockdowns and curfews. Those were in addition to the moratorium scheme the Central Bank introduced. In another first, we also introduced a vehicle trade-in facility which allowed customers to trade in their existing vehicles for a second-hand or brand-new one of any model at a time the vehicle market was beginning to contract.

We are committed to driving our customer-centric strategy with greater focus during the unfolding economic crisis. It is a unique approach for a lending institution, especially when the trend is for NPLs to increase, deteriorating balance sheets. However, our customer-centric business model works.

Despite Covid-19 and the economic crisis, Orient Finance reported a 134% growth in net profits for the 2021/22 financial year, and what drove that stellar performance was the fact that we ensured our customers grew with us, a strategy that builds unshakable trust and loyalty which will secure our mutual futures.

Another crucial contributor to our success is the strategic decision to fast-track our digitalization drive. We embarked on an ambitious digital transformation to create superior customer experiences, make the workplace exciting for our people, and enhance efficiencies and productivity across the company, generating better returns for our investors and more value for our business partners, employees, customers, and communities.

As a member of the Janashakthi Group, how is Orient Finance delivering exceptional performance and driving exponential growth?

Having one of the most well-established and respected organizations in the country as our parent is truly a blessing. And in the finance business, that truly matters because it accentuates the trust investors and customers have in us.

Sharing the core values of JXG has helped us take the inclusive and customer-centric approach to navigate through the crisis and give back to the community and nation by being a finance company that focuses on supporting and nurturing businesses even during the most challenging times.

We are on the cusp of an exciting phase in our journey of growth, embarking on an ambitious strategy to upskill our employees, investing considerable resources to develop talent and build a team of emerging leaders for faster growth. As a certified Great Place to Work in Sri Lanka, Orient Finance is committed to employee well-being and creating an exciting workplace that fosters diversity, inclusion and growth.

While we may not be a large finance company yet, being a JXG company will help us attract the best talent in the market and leverage capabilities from across the group to drive our growth strategy forward. In this regard, as a member of the JXG group, we are better placed to accelerate our digitalization drive with greater intensity, sourcing the best technologies and skills to build digital platforms for enhanced customer experiences in line with their evolving expectations. Our digitalization focus will also help us to extend our innovative products and services to a broader customer base and fulfil our commitments to communities and the nation.

What about the future of the financial sector in Sri Lanka excites you the most?

Right now, the priority is to reverse this economic crisis. Sri Lanka needs a stable government that can convince the nation to stand behind a reform programme to reset the economy.

We may be experiencing the worst economic slump in history, but we have experienced frequent national crises in the past, each seeming to be unprecedented compared to the last. I am confident that we will emerge out of the unfolding crisis stronger, and that confidence drives our strategy of investing in people and technology to create growth opportunities for Orient Finance.