In conversation with Shera Hassen, Vice President/ Head of Pinnacle – Branch Banking Planning & Implementation
March 30, 2023
Could you give us a brief overview of a few key products of DFCC Bank?
We are a full-service commercial bank serving a diverse clientele. DFCC Bank provides the full spectrum of retail, commercial and corporate banking services, including a range of savings, transactional, investment and specialised products and services, all supported by cutting-edge digital delivery solutions. We provide of credit and debit cards, fixed deposits, savings accounts, trade finance, business and personal loans, leasing, gold loans, corporate financing, grants and loans through special credit lines from foreign financiers for women entrepreneurs and selected sectors, from time to time, together with a whole slew of other banking and financial services. It’s safe to say that, whatever your banking requirements are, and whatever your background, you can have your needs met at DFCC Bank.
What products are specifically designed to cater to women?
In Sri Lanka, despite achieving gender parity in access to education, women still face significant challenges when it comes to economic participation. At DFCC Bank, we have identified several key challenges that women in Sri Lanka experience, including limited knowledge of basic accounting and finance, lack of access to information on policies and regulatory frameworks that support female entrepreneurship, difficulties with time management due to multiple responsibilities, lack of training and guidance for future business development, and a lack of awareness of social media and associations focused on women’s empowerment.
To address these challenges, we have developed DFCC Aloka, a financial solution specifically designed to empower women across Sri Lanka to achieve their career goals, business ambitions, and personal dreams. Any woman over the age of 18 in Sri Lanka is eligible to join the Aloka community, whether she is a student, homemaker, employee, businesswoman, entrepreneur, or senior citizen. By becoming a part of Aloka, women can access a range of privileges and benefits, helping them to overcome the barriers that have historically prevented them from reaching their full potential in the workforce and in society more broadly.
Can you elaborate on the ‘DFCC Aloka’ initiative?
DFCC Aloka is a female-centric savings account that offers a wide range of financial and non-financial solutions to empower women in Sri Lanka. Its product features include high-interest-earning tiered savings accounts, rewards for important milestones, free branded debit cards, credit cards with year-round offers and benefits, free ATM withdrawals, and a range of digital banking services. In addition to these features, DFCC Aloka also provides a dedicated web page where female entrepreneurs can share their success stories and access training courses. DFCC Aloka also facilitates business forums, fairs, and knowledge sharing sessions, partnering with women’s chambers across the island and supporting initiatives such as the Women’s Chamber of Industries and Commerce Entrepreneur Awards.
DFCC Aloka goes beyond traditional banking by addressing the unique challenges females face, particularly with regard to encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship from self-starters to large-scale businesses. It has also entered into partnerships with Doc990, Durdans Hospitals, AMRAK Institute of Medical Sciences, Academy of Design, Institute of Hair Diseases and Beauticians, Siddhalepa Hospital & Spa, Web Alliance Sri Lanka and many others, to offer additional benefits to women. Ultimately, DFCC Aloka aims to cater to the diverse needs of women in Sri Lanka and help them achieve their personal, professional, and business goals.
What’s DFCC Bank’s stance on gender equality, equal pay and diversity at the workplace?
DFCC Bank is committed to promoting gender equality, equal pay, and diversity in the workplace. The launch of DFCC Aloka, a female-centric savings account, is one example of the bank’s efforts to empower women in Sri Lanka. In addition, the bank has a welcoming nature with a young and energetic team that caters to every financial need of its customers. DFCC Aloka has identified and addressed the pain points of females, particularly encouraging and promoting female entrepreneurship Islandwide, from self-starters to large scale women-led businesses.
DFCC Bank has also facilitated many forums and tie-ups with various organizations to support the needs of women from all walks of life. These initiatives reflect the bank’s commitment to promoting gender equality and diversity in the workplace, and are supported by various internal initiatives too, which promote women in leadership, and provide support systems, grievance resolution mechanisms and mentorship for women.
How would you describe the level of impact DFCC Bank generated over the years to empower women in Sri Lanka?
DFCC Bank has had a significant impact on empowering women in Sri Lanka through its role as the pioneer development bank. With a focus on serving under-served communities and providing access to financial services, DFCC Bank has been instrumental in supporting many trail-blazing female entrepreneurs and enterprises in their early and risky start-up stages. As a pioneering development bank in Sri Lanka, and now a full-services commercial bank, with 66 years of experience, DFCC Bank has played a crucial role in empowering women and promoting gender equality in the country.
What’s your message on this International Women’s Day?
Our message this International Women’s Day is to fully embrace equity. The theme for this year’s campaign is #EmbraceEquity, which highlights the importance of understanding the difference between equity and equality. We need to move beyond simply providing equal opportunities, and instead, take equitable actions to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to succeed regardless of their background or starting point. Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. It’s critical that we make gender equity part of every society’s DNA. Let’s all work together to fully embrace equity not only on International Women’s Day but every day.