Brian McEnery, Former global president of ACCA, Imparts Invaluable Wisdom for Sri Lanka's Banking Sector and Economic Stability

November 15, 2023

Mr. Brian McEnery, Managing Partner of BDO Ireland and a former Global President of ACCA, recently shared valuable insights and perspectives that shed light on pivotal issues affecting Sri Lanka's banking sector, sovereign debt management, and overall economic stability. Drawing from his extensive interactions with financial institutions and regulatory bodies, Mr. McEnery's insights carry weight in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the Sri Lankan financial landscape.


Citing the importance of a viable banking sector for economic stability, Mr. McEnery stressed on the essential role that banks play in fostering trust and confidence in the economy. He placed significant emphasis on the critical function of well-functioning banks, which not only provide readily accessible credit options but also act as the cornerstone upon which trust and assurance are constructed. Mr. McEnery contended that these effectively operating banks serve as catalysts, facilitating the smooth access to credit for both individuals and businesses. This, he asserted, helps in stimulating investments and nurturing economic growth, ultimately setting in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of prosperity and financial well-being.


However, Mr. McEnery offered a word of caution, highlighting the potential pitfalls that can arise from mismanagement, particularly in the context of non-performing loans (NPLs). He emphasized that NPLs represent a critical challenge for banks, as they can erode financial stability. When left unaddressed or mishandled, NPLs can lead to a cascading effect, impacting the overall health of the banking sector. In such scenarios, the stability of the entire economy becomes vulnerable, as banks struggle to maintain liquidity and confidence wanes among depositors and investors.


He also underscored the intricate relationship between a well-functioning banking sector and economic stability. While banks are instrumental in driving growth and prosperity, vigilant management and effective resolution of challenges, such as NPLs, are paramount to safeguarding the stability of both the banking sector and the broader economy.Top of Form



Reflecting on his involvement in bank and sovereign debt restructuring in Ireland and Cyprus, Mr. McEnery highlighted the significance of data management and analysis as effective NPL recovery strategies and emphasized that Sri Lankan banks must prioritize the meticulous collection and maintenance of precise, up-to-date data pertaining to their loan portfolios. He said that without accurate and current data, banks would struggle to gain a comprehensive understanding of their borrowers and the specific circumstances surrounding their loans.


Furthermore, Mr. McEnery emphasized the importance of categorizing debtors based on pertinent factors. This categorization allows banks to segment their NPLs, recognizing that different borrowers may require tailored approaches to resolution. By understanding the risk profiles of debtors and the nature of their loans, banks can craft recovery strategies that make sense for each distinct group of borrowers. For instance, assessing the collateral tied to a loan and evaluating whether the borrower has no viable option but to liquidate assets for repayment are pivotal considerations. These strategies enable banks to optimize their efforts in recovering NPLs and mitigating losses.


Mr. McEnery also touched on emerging trends in the global financial landscape, particularly regarding inflation and sovereign debt management. He noted that the involvement of multilateral entities in sovereign debt purchases has transformed the issue into a significant political concern, beyond just a financial one. Additionally, Mr. McEnery stressed the importance of governance and compliance, especially in times of crisis and also emphasized the need for a thorough analysis of key sectors and the development of tailored recovery plans. He urged Sri Lanka to leverage the crisis as an opportunity for governance reforms and improvements in compliance.


Speaking about specific recommendations for ensuring a balanced approach to banking sector viability, sovereign debt management, and economic stability in Sri Lanka, Mr. McEnery outlined a comprehensive strategy. Strengthening the banking sector's resilience through prudent practices, investing in data management, maintaining a proactive regulatory framework, prioritizing sovereign debt sustainability, and promoting economic diversification were among his key recommendations.