Telephone : + (94) 112 055318,+ (94) 112 058994
Fax : + (94) 112 338290, + (94) 112 320828
E-mail : apbsl@sltnet.lk



By Dr Mrs Ranee Jayamaha


The principal objectives of a Deposit Insurance Scheme (DIS) are to contribute to the stability of a country’s financial system and protect less financially sophisticated depositors from the loss of their deposits when banks and financial institutions (BFIs) fail. The DIS alone cannot establish stability of the financial system; it can only complement a strong regulatory and supervisory system. Effective bank supervision and regulation is still the key for financial stability.

The DIS is preferable to an implicit protection if it can meet depositors’ claims at agreed levels. In addition, DIS limits the scope for discretionary decisions that may result in arbitrary action by governments and regulatory authorities. By their very nature, DIS systems entail moral hazard. To minimize moral hazard and to be credible, DIS systems need to be properly designed, well implemented and understood by the public.

There is a case for establishing a DIS in Sri Lanka. Due to lack of adequate membership, the current voluntary deposit insurance scheme (VDIS) does not have a sizeable deposit insurance fund to meet any contingencies if such a need arises. Given the unsuccessful experience of the VDIS, the proposed DIS should be made mandatory to deposit taking financial institutions that come under the purview of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), with possible extension to other deposit taking institutions in the future.

The CBSL should take the lead in designing a mandatory deposit insurance scheme (MDIS), but it should not be involved in implementing the system. CBSL’s involvement would result in an overlap of supervisory and regulatory procedures and further enhance moral hazard of the member institutions. The CBSL, government, deposit taking institutions and all other stakeholders should start a dialogue by addressing policy and operational issues, such as the organizational structure, mandates, powers, funding and coverage etc., prior to the setting up of the insurance scheme. It is also critical to address explicitly inter-relationship issues among regulators and other deposit protectors by specifying areas of work and agreeing to exchange necessary information. Given the fact that Sri Lanka has a mixed banking structure of state, private and foreign-owned banks, it is important to assess the risks of different BFIs and attempt to formulate a risk based premium system for the proposed DIS. If it takes time to establish a risk based premium system, the authority should begin with a flat rate premium and move towards a risk based premium system after a few years of operation. The characteristics of the system, its benefits and limitations should be published regularly to maintain the credibility of the system. It takes some time to set up a DIS, given the need to enacting laws. In the meantime, a CBSL-led team together with other stakeholders could start preparatory work.


The DIS can be justified on public policy grounds as providing protection to those least able to protect themselves in a society. The public policy takes into consideration that the less affluent in society should be looked after because their savings represent the best hope for their future well being. To inculcate the habit of saving among the less affluent, they should be assured that the institution to which they hand over their savings is safe and sound. It is also considered that the less affluent and poorer segments of society are not in a position to obtain information or assess the financial condition of deposit soliciting institutions by themselves. Private sector institutions are not keen to provide deposit protection. Experience, the world over, has proved that DIS has been effective in preventing a large number of bank failures and losses of savings of the public. The number of explicit DIS schemes implemented by various countries has risen from 12 in 1974 to approximately 75 by 2002.

In addition to public policy, the safeguarding of the less affluent saver would bring in public benefits. First, the DIS provides incentives to savers. Secondly, they replace ad hoc approaches to banking problems, crisis resolutions and discriminatory practices that are adopted by central banks and governments. Thirdly, DIS would enhance public acceptance of and overall confidence in, the financial system. These public policy benefits do not come automatically. The authorities should prepare a conducive environment in which DIS could work effectively and it is dependent upon the establishment of healthy and competitive banking practices, well established licensing and supervisory oversight by the regulatory authorities.

A few central banks are involved in DIS. They take part in setting up DIS; have shareholdings; and appoint directors to DIS boards. However, many central banks do not implement DIS due to a variety of reasons. The central banks, on the other hand, should be concerned with the large volume of liquid funds that could go back to the public as and when insurance claims are settled. Central banks should have their own methods of mopping up this liquidity from the system, which is a monetary policy concern.

This paper consists of 5 sections. The introduction provides briefly the objectives and uses of a DIS. Section 1 deals with the financial landscape in Sri Lanka and the present supervisory and regulatory system. Section 2 deals with the existing VDIS, while Section 3 sets out the main objectives, key features and the key principles of the proposed DIS. This section draws heavily on the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), discusses its relevance to Sri Lanka, and highlights common problems in the design of DIS. Section 4 sets out the preparatory work required in setting up a DIS. The concluding section summarizes the findings of the paper.



The licensed commercial banks and specialized banks dominate the financial sector in Sri Lanka, accounting for about two thirds of the total financial assets. Annex Table 1 summarizes the size of the deposit taking institutions. At the end of 2002, there were 23 commercial banks (i.e.12 foreign banks and 11 private commercial banks), 13 specialized banks, including the National Savings Bank (NSB), two large development banks (i.e. the National Development Bank and DFCC Bank) and 6 regional development banks. There were also 26 finance companies registered with the CBSL. All these institutions are supervised by the CBSL, while the merchant banks, investment banks, insurance companies, venture capital companies, unit trusts and housing finance institutions are not under the supervision of the CBSL. In addition, there are a large number of micro finance institutions, which solicit public deposits in various forms. While the Insurance Board and the Securities and Exchange Commission are overseeing some of these institutions, many others are not effectively supervised by any organization. The Cooperative Commissioner registers some of the micro finance institutions but does not conduct any effective supervision. Having had a crisis in the 1980s, the CBSL is keeping a close eye on the registered finance companies which are operating on a relatively small capital compared to the commercial and specialized banks.

The Bank of Ceylon (BOC), the Peoples Bank (PB*), NSB and the State Mortgage & Investment Bank (SMIB) are wholly owned public sector banks. The state banks accounted for 30 percent of all deposit taking institutions and 34 percent of GDP at end of 2002. These public sector banks together with three retirement benefit funds and mortgage institutions accounted for 55 percent of the financial system’s assets and 62 percent of GDP in 2002 (annexed Table 2). Despite considerable progress during the past two decades to reduce the oligopolistic characteristics, the two state banks still dominate the banking sector while state sector institutions dominate the financial sector.

The banking sector was adversely affected by the worldwide economic down turn in 2001. The reported levels of non-performing loans (NPL) of banks increased in the recent years and currently, the industry average of NPL in total loans and advances is around 17%. On average, the provisions cover around 40% of total gross NPLs of all banks, but the private banks have managed to keep them at an average of 16%. The foreign banks have relatively low ratios of NPLs. Several banks continue to operate with low levels of provisions. In terms of prudential ratios, not only state banks, but also some of the foreign banks have to bring up their prudential ratios up to accepted levels. The average NPLs of finance companies was around 12%.


The financial sector has strengthened significantly over the last two decades. At present, the CBSL is the sole authority of supervising and regulating BFIs. The supervisory mechanism has been upgraded largely in conformity with the Basle core principles of bank supervision. The Bank Supervision Department (BSD) of the CBSL is dedicated to carry out regulatory and supervisory responsibilities of banks within the provisions of the Banking Act and the Monetary Law Act. The Non-Bank Supervision Department of the CBSL oversees the operations of the finance companies under the Finance Companies Act.

The supervisory and regulatory functions of CBSL encompass the issue of prudential regulations such as capital adequacy, single borrower limits, lending and investment concentration, liquidity ratios, provisioning for bad and doubtful debt, audit criteria and directions, etc. BSD also conducts on-site and off-site examinations. Most off-site examination reports are based on comparative compliance of analysis of CAMEL components while on-site examinations look into the details of CAMEL ratios and compliance with other prudential requirements. At present, most banks adhere to the minimum risk weighted capital adequacy ratio of 8 percent but for prudence, the CBSL has announced that banks should increase capital adequacy to 10 percent from 2003 onwards. The CBSL is also the authority for issuing bank licences with the approval of the Minister of Finance. The minimum capital for commercial banks is Rs 500 million and Rs 200 million for specialized banks. The required capital of a finance company is Rs. 100 million. The ownership of any bank by one individual or group is limited to 10 percent of its shares, unless an exemption is granted in accordance with the provisions of the Banking Act. The CBSL also manages the VDIS and has taken the initiative to enhance public awareness of the banking facilities and their interest rates, charges and commissions by publishing such information in a consolidated form.

15 finance companies failed in the 1980s. Some were liquidated and others were merged or acquired. Pay out to depositors has been uneven and the liquidation process has not been completed on one of the large finance companies. In recent times there have been two bank failures in Sri Lanka – one was the Colombo Branch of the BCCI. In this instance, there was no loss to depositors. The other was the Pramuka Savings & Development Bank. Its licence was cancelled by the CBSL due to fraud, mismanagement and negative net worth. Being a licensed specialized bank, Pramuka has not passed any systemic threat to the banking system but hardship to depositors.

Despite these, public confidence in the banking system is still high partly because of the government ownership of up to 55 percent of deposits taking and retirement benefit institutions. The NSB Act of 1971 exclusively protects deposits of the NSB, while the state banks have an implicit guarantee on deposits.



The existing DIS in Sri Lanka is a voluntary scheme, which has not achieved sufficient membership and scope of coverage to make it a viable programme. The present DIS was introduced in March 1987 under the auspices of the CBSL, the purpose of which was to provide some protection to small savers and account holders. Section 32A of the Monetary Law Act (MLA) specifies that every insured bank or a cooperative society shall be liable to pay a premium to CBSL and that premium shall not exceed 15 cents per annum for every 100 Rupees of the total amount of deposits in that bank/cooperative society. Accordingly, the CBSL has set rules and regulations, definitions, fees and the basic entry and exit criteria. From the inception, the scheme was open to a variety of deposit-taking entities, namely, banks and deposit-taking cooperative societies. The individual deposit insurance coverage was set at Rs.100, 000/-.

One of the drawbacks of the VDIS was that it lacks a sizeable deposit insurance fund to meet contingencies and the ability to pass on significant costs, should the insurance fund be called upon to meet claims by depositors. The DIS commenced operations without a contribution of initial startup funds to form an insurance reserve. Although it meant to build up the insurance fund over time, this has not materialized mainly due to inadequate membership.

Initially, 13 financial institutions joined the VDIS, but the number has declined over time. As at present, there are only 3 multi-purpose cooperative societies in the DIS and this membership is insufficient to generate adequate financing to build up a viable insurance fund capable of meeting insurance obligations. By way of premium, the insurance fund had Rs.1.4 million and the size of the VDIS was Rs.140 million at the end of 2002, which includes Rs.50 million of equity by CBSL. The members who joined the VDIS were relatively small deposit-taking institutions. All big banks, including the two state banks, which account for 21% of the financial system are out of the VDIS. This highlighted the fact that state banks ride on the government ownership, which has led to the public perception of an implicit guarantee of their deposits by the government.

Given the need to establish safety nets for depositors and restore public confidence close on the heels of a collapse of a specialized bank, it is considered necessary that a workable mandatory DI scheme be introduced. When a Mandatory Deposit Insurance Scheme (MDIS) is introduced, by returning simultaneously, the funds to the government and the CBSL, the existing VDIS can be dissolved. Alternatively, the insurance reserve of approximately Rs.80 million can be transferred to the new MDIS.



The basic insurance concept should be simple and direct, if it is to provide safe, secure liquid assets to individuals and small savers. The DIS should provide an assurance that it will return at least a part of depositors’ funds if a depository institution were to fail, become illiquid or is closed. For the system to work successfully, there should be the widespread public belief that funds would be available to satisfy the insurance scheme. In this regard, it may be worthwhile for Sri Lanka to take a close look at the oldest and well-known US DIS system, operated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and learn from its design, operations and drawbacks, and assess its applicability to Sri Lanka. The following sections would draw heavily on the US DIS system while advocating the adoption of the scheme, wherever possible.

The US introduced the Federal Deposit Insurance Scheme in 1934 with the broad objectives of: (1) enhancing macroeconomic and financial stability by mitigating or preventing bank runs; (2) protecting the small depositors from loss if their banks fail. The same objectives would be applicable to Sri Lanka.


3.2.1 Deposit insurance should enhance macroeconomic and financial stability

Since the advent of the US Federal Deposit Insurance in 1934, bank failures have become much less frequent and widespread banking panic in the US has disappeared. Although there have been other important factors that have helped the US macro economy to be more stable, DIS in general has created beneficial economic externality as the financial system and the macro economy have been less volatile. During 2002, 11 FDIC insured institutions failed, of which 10 with combined assets of $2.5 billion were insured by the Bank Insurance Fund (BIF). Losses for the failed institutions are estimated at $ 630 million. Over 90 percent of financial institutions pay essentially nothing for deposit insurance. This compares well with failed and assisted 1,617 banks through 1980-1994 for which FDIC has effected straight deposit payoffs. FDIC had 135 problematic institutions to handle as at the end of 2002 (Annexes 3a & 3b).

Sri Lanka’s record of bank failures has been insignificant compared to most other countries. Although the two state banks’ efficiency ratios are far from satisfactory, their prudential ratios have improved following the 1993 and 1996 large scale restructuring. For better management and efficiency reasons, options for rehabilitating the Peoples Bank are under consideration. More recently, the CBSL’s decision to suspend the licence and liquidate the Pramuka Savings Development Bank - a licensed specialized bank has been a surprise to depositors who have filed several cases in court challenging the CBSL’s decision. There have been several finance company failures in the 80s of which the CBSL met part of the deposit liabilities in an ad hoc manner. Although the licensed banks and registered finance companies are under close supervision of the CBSL, there are underlying vulnerabilities that could surface from time to time causing threats to the stability and confidence of the financial system. Therefore establishing a MDIS as a precautionary measure would be desirable.

3.2.2 DI should prevent most bank runs.

This goal can be realized in two ways (a): by guaranteeing depositors so that they will not suffer losses even if their banks fail; and (b) by reducing contagion. The existence of a comprehensive DIS should avoid bank runs even if the depositor learns that another bank has failed. A transparent scheme whereby the MDIS would meet depositor liabilities up to an agreed level would no doubt make the public and other stakeholders aware of what each party would get in case of a collapse of a bank or a financial institution.

The sharp reduction in bank runs would also reduce systemic risks. This was proved in the US when bank failures in the early 1990s did not precipitate many bank runs. Banks have failed because they were insolvent and not because they became illiquid in the midst of panic runs. The important principle that needs to be well established is that the insurance product is only a guarantee on deposits but not a guarantee of troubled financial institutions.

3.2.3 DI should be designed to minimize microeconomic distortions other than the incentive to run

Any DIS would create some degree of moral hazard. The DIS should however be designed to minimize exhaustive risk taking, i.e. additional risk taking induced by DIS itself. Similarly, if the DIS should not favor one type of bank to another; one category of bank deposit for another; or one type of risk taking behavior for another. Although, in practice, it is difficult to observe these, the scheme should be as neutral as possible. At the start of the scheme, it should be made clear the differentiation, if any, to enable depositors to make their choice.

3.2.4 The public-funded DI System should neither subsidise nor tax the banking sector.

The government or the DIS authority should neither tax the industry by charging too much for DIS nor subsidise it by charging too little. In the US, the FDIC observes this tradition. DISs, in general, make the economy less risky for businesses and this justifies a subsidy. The element of subsidy, however, would result in the government selling DIS at a loss and it should be minimized as far as possible. If all member institutions pay a steady premium over a long period, it would result in the insurance fund fluctuating in response to insurance losses. The fund will be dependent on government or other financial institutions’ support as and when funds are inadequate, which would multiply the subsidy element. A periodic change of the premium should be included in the system. This is a critical policy area that requires extensive discussions by the Government, CBSL and BFIs, as the MDIS should not be an undue burden either on the Government or banks. Having empowered a central bank or regulatory authority to effectively supervise BFIs, some governments can be reluctant to be involved in the ultimate bailouts of depositors. Yet, governments, in the national interest, would be responsible for ensuring financial system stability and for that, they should take part in DI schemes. The initial amount of funding of the DIS is debatable in Sri Lanka given the present budgetary conditions. To avoid an unnecessary burden on the budget, all relevant stakeholders should discuss policy, operational and funding issues at an early stage. It may be worthwhile to explore the possibility of using some of the concessionary foreign funds, if available, or discuss with international institutional investors such as the ADB and IFC for equity participation.

3.2.5 DI should minimize the risk of the taxpayer

In a publicly run DIS, the government uses taxpayers’ funds which serve as the ultimate re-insurer. For example, when the savings and loans (S&L) debacle emerged in the US in the 1980s, the taxpayer was presented with a multi-billion dollar bill. The FDIC changed this structure and arranged for banks to recapitalise the insurance fund whenever it fell below 1.25 percent of insured deposits thereby avoiding the liability of insurance loss for the taxpayer. However, in reality, one cannot avoid a small residual risk falling on the taxpayer. Attempts should be made to remove this potential exposure as far as possible, except in situations where natural disasters, health disasters, etc. take place, which are taken as axiomatic as the government will in such instances serve as the ultimate backstop. Further reducing taxpayer exposure to zero de facto, as opposed to de jure, is probably unrealistic. If government were to provide equity capital and to continually fund the MDIS, then it will become a government institution and this will have serious implications on the taxpayer.

3.2.6 DI should relieve small depositors of the burden of monitoring their banks

Although it is argued that the taxpayer should monitor his bank and withdraw funds from unsafe institutions, in reality it is not possible in most instances. If the depositor were to do his job well, it is necessary for the taxpayer/depositor to get first-hand information on the viability of BFIs. The central banks or other regulators would be reluctant to issue information relating to viability of individual BFIs. If DIS were meant for depositors and not for troubled financial institutions, then regulators would have to ensure that they control and supervise BFIs to establish public confidence in the financial system. Moreover, in developing countries, neither depositors nor the general public have the knowledge or the ability to supervise or monitor the institutions in which they place their funds. The set-up costs of monitoring a bank by an individual are not economical either. Against this background, the authorities may not be able to hold depositors responsible for monitoring their own banks. An effective scheme of government-funded DI would relieve small depositors of this burden.

3.2.7 “Fix, only if it is broke”

The S&L debacle that took place in the 1980s was a significant test for DIS. Why so many of them actually failed was not very clear, although the common belief is that inadequate supervision and regulation of savings and loans was the main reason. It is also not clear whether all S&L had to be rehabilitated by the FDIC and the US government. Currently, all depositors in the US are accustomed to seeing FDIC guaranteeing that their bank deposits are safe. A lesson from the US S&L would be that the regulators should act swiftly as symptoms of possible failure of BFIs surface rather than allowing problems to escalate compelling the DIS to rehabilitate them. The S&L of the US have a distinct focus from that of banks as they are permitted to provide home mortgage credit, which is a more risky long-term investment.

The FDIC acts as the receiver or liquidating agent for failed insured deposit institutions. In its role as a receiver, it has fiduciary obligations to all creditors of receivership and to stockholders of the fund to maximize the amounts as quickly as possible. To include enabling provisions for the DIS authority to take receivership should be discussed at the designing stage, as Sri Lanka may or may not need such a provision. The Sri Lankan equivalent of US S&L is the finance companies registered with the CBSL. There are however, many savings mobilizing institutions, which are not under any authority’s effective supervision. The demarcation of the type of institutions will be an issue in the design of a MDIS but it is important that adequate consideration be given to the risks of bankruptcy of these unregulated institutions and their implications for the financial system as a whole and the small and unsophisticated depositor, in particular.


3.3.1 Risk Pricing Problems

Any insurance should be priced as accurately as possible to reflect expected losses and cover risks. The FDIC provides protection to banks, S&Ls and credit unions. The marginal pricing could deviate from expected marginal costs depending on the extent that moral hazard problems will lead to special optimal business decisions by managers. Unfortunately, the current US DIS which is supposed to feature risk based prices for individual institutions is prevented from doing so because the way the FDIC treats the designated reserve ratio (DRR) for the insurance funds. The DRRs for both the Banks’ Insurance Fund (BIF) and the Savings Association Insurance Fund (SAIF) have been exceeded for several years now. For example, during 2002, deposits insured by BIF rose by 4.9 percent to $ 2.5 trillion. As shown in Appendix Tables 3a-3b, in 2002, the BIF exceeded the reserve ratio marginally to 1.27 percent above the target ratio of 1.25 percent of estimated insured deposits, while the SAIF reached a ratio of 1.37 percent. During 2002, 11 FDIC insured institutions failed, of which 10 with combined assets of $2.5 billion were insured by BIF. Losses for the failed institutions were estimated at $630 million. As it is, over 90 percent of financial institutions pay essentially nothing for deposit insurance and this indicates that premiums are not based on risk. This raises the issue whether FDIC is playing the role it should, in reducing moral hazards and giving proper pricing signals to the market place.

This problem has led to a number of market distortions. For example, a large bank with a huge deposit base and extremely complex risks may pay the same amount of premium (zero) for insurance as a small community bank. Even banks in different risk categories (the top two CAMEL categories) pay the same for insurance. When DI premiums are effectively zero for most institutions, the incentive for bank managers to improve their operations and in particular to worry about the risks they take on, is insignificant. In a dynamic market place where new financial intuitions are being created (some are growing rapidly than others), such undifferentiated premiums can lead to moral hazards as well as problems of unfairness. This would mean that many banks would get a free ride on DIS.

If Sri Lanka were to design a flat rate DIS, the treatment of DRRs should be carefully thought through, as “pay nothing” formula would lead to a bonus to some and a disincentive to others. “Pay Nothing” or “Zero Premium” DIS schemes would also lead to institutions not fully exploiting all available information in determining the risk. The current DIS in the US does not have to deal with the “too big to fail” issue. Although the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991(FDICIA) significantly tightened restrictions on bailouts of such institutions, it seems likely that the largest institutions will get extra benefits in the form of potential bailouts for uninsured depositors, etc. In Sri Lanka where the two state banks still occupy more than 50% of the banking sector and 30% of the financial system, and given their high risk portfolios, they should not be allowed to have a free ride on others. Some institutions may take advantage of the fact that non-deposit taking activities are also covered under the scheme. Giving institutions extra protection without a cost may cause them to engage in more risky behaviour than they otherwise would.

In principle, the premiums that banks pay should reflect the cost they would impose on the insurance fund (elementary efficiency condition). But it is reported that FDICIA, through its prompt corrective action (PCA) provisions, which mandate regulatory intervention well in advance of insolvency, has reduced these expected costs. If PCA operates properly, the FDIC should not suffer a loss except in case of frauds. The marginal costs would therefore be seen as zero. Up to now, Sri Lanka has not engaged in PCA but the proposed amendments to the Banking Act may provide adequate powers to CBSL to engage in such action in the future.

If break even premiums in the future should be lower than they have been in the past because of PCA, it is not fair to argue that it should have zero premiums, because perfection is not normally achievable in bank supervision and there can be unforeseen circumstances. Also, there can be occasional large adverse macro shocks leading to insolvency in institutions before corrective action could be taken (good loans can turn to bad loans during slumps). Even if future losses to the FDIC are caused by macro shocks (no fault of the banks), it remains true that banks differ in the degree of risk they impose on the FDIC. This means that banks with strong balance sheets are more likely to survive even in an acute macro shock and hence are less likely to cause a loss to the FDIC. The weaker banks, on the other hand, would pose greater risk to the fund. Therefore, risk-based premiums designed to reflect expected loses are still valid for FDIC, although the system was not designed originally to function on a risk-based model.

The Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC), on the other hand, assesses risk exposure through an early warning system (EWS) for its individual member financial institutions, drawing on its experience of having handled the failure of 43 member institutions during the past 3 decades. CDIC emphasizes that a well-designed EWS can be effective at the early detection of problem institutions. The three key EWS emphasized in the CDIC System are: the macroeconomic; macro prudential; and advance warning of individual financial institutions, which are relevant to the FDIC as well, but the basic purpose of the US and the Canadian systems differs in terms of their target population model and the structure of DIS.

In principle, DIS should be risk-based, linked to the capital of the deposit taking institutions. But, given the absence of comprehensive information on institutional risks, it may be difficult to set out a risk based premium formula at the start. The alternative would be to start with a second best solution of a flat rate premium and ensure that the risk for better managed financial institutions are minimized through effective PCA by the regulatory authorities. The options for introducing a risk-based MDIS should be kept open for future consideration.

3.3.2 Procyclical Bias

Given the most important goals of DIS being enhancing macroeconomic and financial stability, the current US system strives to maintain a DI fund equal to 1.25 percent of insured deposits. Hence it stops collecting significant insurance premiums once the DRR target has been attained. Instead, if losses stemming from bank failures drag the fund below the 1.25 percent DRR, the FDIC now imposes an ex-post settling mechanism that could cause banks to pay high premiums during periods of financial distress. This feature of the current DIS in the US would cost financial institutions a large sum of money as extra premiums due to high cost of deposit gathering during business cycle downturns. This raises the issue whether the system targeted reserve ratio was based on a long run expected loss formula which is less procyclical, but have superior operating characteristics. Although a procyclical premium system would be more logical, it may be difficult to operate such a system in a country like Sri Lanka as the financial sector is still used to “fixed rates”, “fixed installments” and “fixed premiums”. Also it would be unfair on the good banks, which are called upon to subside weaker banks to pay according to business cyclical changes.

3.3.3 Fair Coverage Limit

The current US DIS determines a deposit coverage limit that is fair and transparent, protects small depositors, allows for sound financial planning and yet does not exacerbate moral hazard risk. Choosing such a coverage limit obviously represents a trade off among competing goals. However, the current US coverage limit is not indexed which appears to be at variance with other government programmes that benefit citizens (social security payments, medicare benefits and personal tax exemptions) which are all indexed for inflation. The current system also suffers on the transparency/economic efficiency front because of the multiple registrations allowable for coverage. Up to now, in Sri Lanka, most social benefit schemes are not inflation-indexed. If the real return on deposits and investments can be maintained at all times, the inflation indexation may not arise. If not, an inflation linked system may have to be considered at a future date.

At present, in the US, account balances up to US$100,000/- are insured. A customer with only one individual account with a certificate of deposit of $ 80,000 with $ 15000 in accrued interest ($95000 in total) would be paid the full $95000. A customer with only one individual account with a certificate of deposit of $ 90,000 with $ 15000 in accrued interest ($ 105000 in total) will be paid only $ 100,000 because of the insurance limit. Because the current deposit insurance laws permit separate insurance coverage for each right and capacity in which an individual holds an account, the $100,000/- limit does not appear to be very effective. In general, a family taken together could maintain a much higher amount in their account in a single institution. There is a strong case, therefore, for imposing the insurance limit on the individual depositor and not on the account. However, this may be an important policy issue.

The unconventional principle that small depositors should not be expected to monitor the safety and soundness of their banks and that their deposits would be 100 percent unsafe is that the bank supervisory agency would be solely responsible for effective supervision, which is not achievable at all times. What constitutes a “small” deposit would imply the coverage limit for FDIC insurance of which the current limit of US$100,000/-. This was announced in 1980 and is not considered to be excessive even today. But the real value of the US$100,000/- limit has been significantly eroded by inflation since 1980. There are some options to consider in deciding the potential level of coverage.

(i) The US$100,000/- coverage limit can be compared with the median account balance or financial networth of the median household. But in a situation where the maxima make the median, it will not be acceptable. This raises the issue whether large depositors can monitor the safety and soundness of their banks? From that point of view, comparing the US$100,000/- limit with the median account balance is irrelevant. It does not appear to be reasonable to expect even a depositor with more than US$100,000/-, but less than US$1 million, to keep close tabs on the financial condition of his bank. The same would be applicable to Sri Lanka if a median deposit level were to be taken as the coverage limit as banks have a mix of large institutional, corporate deposit and retail deposit bases.

Given the large accumulation of financial wealth in recent years, $100,000/- is no longer such a huge amount of money even though it is much bigger than the median account. Many risk averse investors might want to keep more than US$100,000/- in their bank accounts. It is not clear what purpose would be served by authorizing these people to spread their accounts over multiple institutions. This is also an important issue for Sri Lanka as both big and small depositors scatter their deposits around banks depending on return and risks. One way is to set a clear limit on the extent of deposit insurance protection to be provided by setting a flat or fixed maximum insurance pay out at a low or modest level whereby 100% protection is afforded to small account holders and only a small level of protection to large account holders. Similarly, an insurance scheme can be implemented by making available a fixed percent of all funds paid out as the insurance settlement (say 70% to 80%) of the total claim together with a cap on a higher absolute maximum level.

Whatever the initial limit set should be adjusted over time to reflect the growth in nominal income/wealth, not just the increase in the price level. The recommendation arising out of a critical review of the DIS in the US was (a) increasing the 100,000/- coverage limit substantially; (b) indexing it; and (c) legal simplification that applies the limit to all the accounts held in whole or in part by a single individual in a single institution. In summary, the idea is to set up a “tuned up” DIS in which banks pay risk-based premiums.

3.3.4 The User Fee Insurance Model

In the US, the “user fee and “mutual model” may be seen as complementary. FDIC is seen as selling an insurance product to the banks and it ought to charge actuarially fair premiums for that service. In that sense, FDIC premiums are treated as user fees. In particular, the marginal dollar cost should be positive on insurance deposits. If a private monopoly in the US sets its price too high, entry by new competitors will erode its monopoly profits. Even if the FDIC sets its premiums too high, the assets will build up within the insurance funds as has happened in recent years. If FDIC sets premiums too low, exit is not an option. Instead, a flow of claims will gradually deplete the fund. Given the theme that DIS should be designed to neither tax nor subsidise the banking system in the long run, then the FDIC should strive to operate on an approximately break-even basis, which implies a mutual insurance arrangement. The user fee and mutual model can be reconciled by allowing for a two-way flow of revenue between the proposed authority for Insurance and the banks. The authority should charge some positive marginal cost for the insurance it provides (user fee element). If these premiums lead to excess profits and unnecessary build up of the fund, the authority should rebate monies back to the banks in proportion to past premiums paid (the mutual element) or an appropriate formulae.

3.3.5 Types of DIS

The DIS can be just “pay box” type, geared to pay claims as and when they arise after a failure of a bank or a financial institution or “risk minimiser” type, which will have more broader powers and responsibilities to control entry and exit to and from DIS and ability to assess and manage its own risks. The “pay box” type DIS does not normally have powers for supervision of financial institutions or intervention, but it should have adequate funding and information relating to deposits. From 1980 through 1994, the FDIC managed 120 straight deposit pay-offs out of 1617 failed and assisted banks, or 7.4% of all closings. In 1983 the FDIC created the insured deposit transfer (IDT) to the straight pay-off. In an IDT, the insured deposits and secured liabilities of a failed bank or thrift society are transferred to a healthy institution (the agent institution) and the FDIC makes a matching payment of cash and /or assets to the institution. The agent institution pays customers with the dues to the insured deposits or if the customer request it, to an account opened by him in the agent institution. The IDT minimizes the inconveniences. DISs designed to have broader powers have the ability to control entry and exit from the deposit insurance system, assess its own risks, conduct examinations of financial institutions, provide financial assistance to failed institutions, enforce resolution activities and adopt risk minimization methods in discharging their functions. The mandate and powers should enable the proposed DIS to transfer at a future date the dues to accounts or institutions chosen by the depositor.

The governance practices of DIS should be on strategic planning, risk management processes and general internal controls. The institution set up for DIS should be subject to corporate governance principles, in particular in subjecting appointments to “fit & proper” tests. The institutions should be accountable to a higher authority or authorities and ensure transparency in all its operations. DIS should also be manned by skilled staff to ensure its success.

Banks have an explicit claim on FDIC revenues – a claim that might be valued as an asset on he banks’ balance sheets. The FDIC is not a mutual insurance company owned by banks; rather it belongs to the taxpayers. For example, if the Congress were to decide that more coverage is needed (higher than US$100,000/-) and that a larger insurance fund is therefore appropriate, rebates to banks should be cut even though they may have overpaid for insurance in the past.


4.1 Preparatory Work for a DIS in Sri Lanka

The following policy and operational issues should be resolved prior to establishing a DIS for Sri Lanka. All stakeholders should be involved and be clear of the issues and participate at discussions.

4.2 Key Policy Issues

4.2.1. Who should be the DIS authority?

The DIS function could be assigned to an existing organization or a separate entity. If a separate authority is to be established, issues such as who will provide the initial capital and who will be the lender of last resort facilities should be decided. In general, governments provide initial capital and are also the lenders of last resort in a systemic failure. As experienced elsewhere, the industry undertakes to repay the government as soon as the systemic threat is over or when payments to depositors are completed.

4.2.2. What type of institutions will be insured?

Should it be only banks (commercial and specialized banks)? Or, banks and finance companies which are supervised by the CBSL or should it be extended to other deposit taking institutions, such as cooperative rural banks, thrift and credit cooperative societies and others which are not effectively supervised by any authority.

4.2.3. The coverage:

The present VDIS in Sri Lanka limits insurance coverage to Rs 100,000 per individual. Is it adequate in the present context? Does it adequately cover small deposits? How small is small? Should it reflect some median of small deposits (say, upto Rs 50,000 or less)? Or should it be only very small deposits? Should coverage limit be per deposit or per depositor? The CBSL, government and the commercial banks should collectively decide on the appropriate coverage or the limit. It is also necessary to decide whether the amount is for one account or for the aggregate; the scheme should prevent depositors opening multiple accounts below the insured limit. Perhaps the insured amount could be based per depositor and per bank. Should the coverage be per individual or family, or for joint accounts? If it were the aggregate, then what would be the cut off payment?

4.2.4. Insurance reserve fund (insurance fund):

What should be the ratio of the deposit insurance fund to insured deposits (cut off level)? What action should be taken when the cut off limit is reached? Should banks pay above the cut off or should insured institutions be allowed to enjoy the benefits of the already paid premium?

4.2.5 Type of Premium:

Should the premium be a steady rate (flat rate) over a long period or should it be a variable rate? Should it be designed to maintain a target ratio?
Should low risk banks pay for part of the risks of high risk banks under a flat rate premium?

4.2.6. Types of deposits:

What are the categories of deposits to be included in the DIS? Should all deposits be included? Should the insurance coverage be limited to domestic rupee deposits? Given the importance of foreign currency accounts in Sri Lanka’s economy, shouldn’t NRFC and RFC deposits be included? If so, should premium be charged in Rupees or foreign currency? This would make the designing more complex as one needs to decide the mode of premium payments and a separate cover for foreign exchange deposits, the Central Bank having to ensure that banks have adequate controls in the management of their foreign exchange. Who covers the exchange risks if depositors have to be paid in foreign currency? Should certificates of deposits be included in the DIS? (they may disappear when the money laundering legislation is passed).

4.2.7. Funding:

The effectiveness of a DIS and maintenance of public confidence would depend on the source and the availability of funds. Usually, governments jointly with member institutions fund DISs and they also borrow from the market. Funding should be available to reimburse promptly the depositors’ claims. Member banks should pay to build up the DIS, as their clients would be protected from loss. The DIS Authority should provide for its own ongoing financing by placing a deposit insurance premium assessment on individual depositories to maintain and if necessary, to restore the insurance fund to a pre-determined minimum level.

4.2.8. Type of DIS:

At the outset it is important to decide whether the proposed DIS is only a “pay box” type or whether it should be empowered with some supervisory and intervention powers (risk minimiser). Given the enhancement of powers of the CBSL under the proposed amendments to the Banking Act, the duplication of functions between CBSL and DIS authority should be avoided.

4.3 An Appropriate Legal and Institutional Structure

Like in the US, the proposed DIS in Sri Lanka should be vested in an authority outside the CBSL to alleviate moral hazards of banks as well as the public as both parties would assume that the CBSL will be there to protect depositors. In addition to banks, which are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), the FDIC consists of Federal Savings Association, which is regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). The Federal Reserve Board regulates their respective holding companies.

The proposed DIS authority should: enhance market confidence; be able to have boards to dispense with claims that arise from insolvent banks and financial institutions as quickly as possible; be autonomous in order to obtain services of highly skilled personnel at market prices; and help to maintain the integrity and stability of the nation’s financial system. The DIS and CBSL should complement each other’s areas of functionality and coordinate their work to avoid duplication.

There is no unique model of a DIS applicable to all countries and markets. In general, the DIS legislation should provide for the following: -

(a) Authority to: provide explicit direct protection to individual depositors of Sri Lanka’s depository institutions by a fixed or known maximum amount; set in place regulations to govern the pay out of depositor funds and settle claims; hive off non-performing advances, in part or full, of banks and financial institutions to the proposed asset management company; arrange a fellow bank to be taken over by a strong bank; and to transform a troubled bank into a “bridge bank” with the full backing of the authority for a certain period as decided by the authority until such time a buyer is found to take over the bank. A “bridge bank” can be set up to acquire the assets and assume liabilities of a failed institution until final resolution can be accomplished.

(b) Ability to: set up a permanent deposit insurance fund serving both as an insurance reserve and as the primary source of liquidity to settle insurance claims (whether or not the DIS authority should have one insurance fund for both banks and finance companies should be decided early); establish the means of priority payment for all liabilities and claims to creditors and to return any residual money to the failed institution’s shareholders; establish necessary coordination with the CBSL and in particular, with the Bank and Non Bank Supervision Departments; perform complementary tasks such as special inspections, risk assessment and the analysis of relevant economic or other financial data and sharing information between among them; establish, if needed, its own risk assessment mechanism to commit it to effectively manage insurance obligations and costs; and make decisions within set parameters and in consultation with the CBSL regarding the future and methods of dealing with seriously troubled and insolvent institutions.


Given the acceptance that small and unsophisticated depositors need a safety net and deposit protection and also the existence of a mixed group of banks and financial institutions, there appears to be a good case for establishing a deposit insurance scheme in Sri Lanka. This will further the objective of Sri Lanka becoming a regional financial hub for which a stable financial system is a key factor. The present voluntary deposit insurance scheme lacks both a sizeable accumulated fund to meet contingencies and an institutional fall back position. Sri Lanka needs a Mandatory Deposit Insurance Scheme, which will have the membership of all deposit taking institutions regulated by CBSL. This scheme should include a deposit insurance fund, which would be built over time with the ability to spread costs and potential losses over a large base. The establishment of a deposit insurance scheme would also reduce the ad hoc procedures followed by the government and the CBSL in dealing with financial institution insolvency.

All members should pay a levy to the deposit insurance organization. Ideally, a risk based deposit insurance scheme would serve the purpose, but for the time being, even a flat premium based model would be suitable. The availability of funds in the insurance fund should be reviewed periodically and the collection of deposit insurance premium should enable the system to be self-sufficient on an on-going basis.

The CBSL should take the lead in setting up a DIS but CBSL should not be directly involved in managing the DIS. The enabling legislative provisions should be there for the organization to function and serve its objectives. In addition, clear mandates, rules, procedures should be set out which take time. It is time for a CBSL-led team to start preparatory work towards establishing a viable DIS.

References :

1. Central Bank of Sri Lanka : Annual Report, 2002

2. FDIC: Staff Study: A Unified Federal Charter for banks and savings Association

3. FDIC Annual Report -2002

4. Financial Stability Forum: Guidance for Developing Effective Deposit Insurance Systems, Sep 20

5. Gregorash, G Deposit Insurance in Cambodia: First Steps (First Draft-September 2002)

6. International science and technology Institute : Study of Deposit Insurance –Sri Lanka , September 1999

7. The SEACEN Centre: Comprehensive Early warning Systems and the Experience of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, Occasional paper 2002.
Dr Mrs Ranee Jayamaha

Dr Ranee Jayamaha is presently the Assistant to the Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka. She holds a Ph.D in Monetary Economics, University of Bradford, U.K., M.Sc. in Economics, University of Stirling, U.K. and B.A. (Hons.) University ofPeradeniya, Sri Lanka.

She held the post of Special Advisor (Economic), Economic & Legal Advisory Services Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, Advisor/Chief Executive, Financial Sector Reform Committee, Ministry of Finance, Colombo, Secretary, Presidential Commission on Finance & Banking and Director, Banking Development, Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

She has several publications to her credit, including 18 International publications and 20 National publications.



     Copyright © 2004 - 2013 by Concept & Development By
     Association of Professional Bankers - Sri Lanka I-WEB SOLUTIONS