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Sun 6 May 2007 04:00 AM

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Banking bonanza

E-Banking and e-Payments specialist, TPS, has made it a religion to respond to customer needs quickly and help them achieve the agility the sector demands. Colin Edwards discovers what being smart is all about.

|~|Saeed,-Imran---TPS---Manage.jpg|~|Saeed: Being EMV-compliant has given TPS a competitive advantage in the region.|~|When Bahrain and Qatar central banks mandated last year that all banks in the two countries had to make their ATMs smart card (EMV)-compliant, Pakistan-based banking solutions specialist TPS showed the banking world how responsive it could be.

The 10-year old company beat all the Big Boys in coming up with a solution for their customers to EMV in order to enable different terminals in both countries.

Its market responsiveness and understanding of the local environment is how TPS differentiates itself and its products in the competitive banking and automated bill payment world in which it has chosen to play.

“The main thing is how quickly you are able to respond to market needs,” says Imran Saeed, the business development manager of the Dubai-based offices of TPS Middle East, adding that continuous research and development and product enhancement has given it a competitive edge.

All the banks TPS has sold into have turned out to be repeat business and multiple product sites, as he says customers have been impressed by the company’s ability to meet new requirements within the market.

“This has been one of the true success factors of TPS’s products and has been a driver for many other customers to come to us. We are very quick and very flexible in our responses. For other big players, it is not that easy to just go for new development, new customisation, or to answer to a new business immediately,” Saeed says.

Such agility, says Imran, has seen the company grow from a two man-operation, which conceptualised the need for inter-banking 10 years ago in Pakistan, to a multi-million dollar company with some 80 global customers both in the banking and utilities sectors. It employs more than 100 professionals and is planning to boost the headcount up to about 140 this year.

Apart from its vast Pakistani bank user base its Middle East clients include banks in Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Morocco.

It also has clients in Brunei, Malaysia and Bangladesh. It is not so much the company itself that has grown in that period, he maintains, but the banking industry itself. The company has filled the gap for affordable solutions. This has applied to product gaps that have opened up as well as new markets. The company was one of the first in Libya when it opened up to international trade, as well as Sudan.

“The company started when Pakistan was a very virgin market or virgin kind of banking industry in terms of electronic payment. And all those banks in Pakistan at that time were planning to issue their ATM cards and have different delivery channels,” Saeed says.

“The whole concept at that time was to fill the gaps that existed. The main role of TPS has been that it has literally done hand-holding of the whole industry in Pakistan. And this was to the point where now every bank in Pakistan has e-banking solutions and every bank issues ATM cards and all of them are interconnected. So, TPS has played the role of coach or mentor there,” he says.

“The breakthrough in the Middle East was venturing into cash deposit automation software. SMARTdeposit is a one of the preferred solutions in the banks all over the region.”

Today TPS is a dominant player in the Middle East market, has a few European customers and is exploring the feasibility of having a direct presence in North America via an office in Canada. Its main focus now however is building up an indirect sales market in Africa and the Asia-Pacific regions via resellers with relevant experience.||**|||~||~||~|In addition to its e-banking products, which currently number nearly 20 and found success in the Pakistan market initially because the country could not afford what global developers were charging for their solutions, the company has carved out a market for bill payments at banks and utilities.

It currently supplies its automated bill payment software, SMARTdeposit, to telcos in the Gulf including QTEL in Qatar, MTC Vodafone in Bahrain, Etisalat in the UAE and MTC Vodafone in Kuwait.

In early 2000 there was a requirement for the cash deposit automation here in the Gulf.

All banks here were asking for a solution that could take customers cash deposits and credit their accounts with immediate effect. As for EMV, Saeed says the company’s products are all EMV compliant and TPS is well positioned to meet future demands throughout the Middle East region.

Its solutions are helping Bahrain and Qatar banks avoid any penalties which are likely to be levied for any non-compliancy by the end of the year. The next country to mandate EMV is likely to be the UAE in the years to come.

“Being able to deliver EMV-compliant products has given us a competitive edge. EMV is such a big buzz word and is such an important criteria for any sale to happen. TPS has been very successful in product compliance with EMV,” says Saeed.

In addition to specific standards such as EMV, the company’s products also comply with any international and regional standards such as VISA or the local UAE switch as well as security and audit standards.

“In terms of compliance we always keep our eyes open and we also have a huge research and development team which keeps updating our products at a very rapid pace so we don’t lag behind,” says Saeed.

The solutions themselves are Unix and Linux based and this is unlikely to change in the near future, because the environment has proved to be so robust. All its products use the Oracle database, and as well as this it uses Microsoft .NET as its web-based graphical user interface.

“We chose technology not for technology’s sakes, but because it is best suited to our products,” he adds.
Although its solutions have never been mainframe based, Imran says there is mainframe experience within its development team. This is mainly because its products have to work with mainframe systems, as well as be integrated with them.||**||

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