Sir Andrew Caldecott ceremoniously opened bank of Ceylon on the 1st August 1939 at the City office premises. This domestic bank began to grow despite severe competition from exchange bank and informal moneylenders. It opened its first branch in 1941 at Kandy and subsequently in outstation towns, such as Galle, Jaffna and Trincomalee. Bank of Ceylon opened its first overseas branch in 1949 in London. The Bank was nationalized in 1961 to facilitate the national development efforts. Under the Agricultural Productivity Law that was enacted in 1972 Agrarian Service Centre branches were set up island wide.
The introduction of the open economic policies ushered in the new era in commercial banking in Sri Lanka. The bank pioneered the introduction of Information Technology to the commercial banking sector of Sri Lanka. The first Foreign Currency Banking Unit (FCBU) was set up in 1979 consequent to the liberalization of exchange control regulations.
In addition to commercial banking activities, the Bank of Ceylon began to enter into other business areas through subsidiary and associate companies. The Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka Limited, the first Merchant Bank in Sri Lanka was set up by Bank of Ceylon in 1982 with the establishment of the BOC Property Development Limited, a 32 storied new Head Office was constructed in 1987 to house all Administrative offices, International Division a Corporate Branch and a Personal Branch.
In collaboration with VISA International, the Bank of Ceylon introduced Ceybank Visa Credit Cards in 1989 for the first time in Sri Lanka and is now geared to introduce many innovative facilities in the new millennium.