The world’s first ATM machine was installed in London. Barclay’s Bank was the first to capitalize on this invention John Shepherd-Barron claimed to have created in 1967. Around 20 years later, automated teller machines started cropping up in Sri Lanka. “Everyone knows” according to CEO and GM of Sampath IT Solutions Ltd (SITS) S. Muralidharen “that Sampath Bank was the first local bank” to bring home this technology. Those curious enough to withdraw cash automatically in 1988, under the iconic orange digital-rescue font spelling out ‘SET,’ unknowingly set the tone for banking as we know it.
Naturally, Sampath Bank’s commitment to electronic banking hasn’t stopped there. A testament to this is the bank’s subsidiary, Sampath IT Solutions (SITS) completing decade of successful existence this year. SITS “came into being” in 2006 the current CEO tells us, fortified by years of in-house electronic and digital experience since before 1988.
The bank’s robust tech history emits the idea that SITS’ transition was only organic. Leading up to this branching-out of expertise, in 1997, they went digital and introduced a debit card. Hardly novel today, back in the late 90’s we learn this was an achievement of regional magnitude. Working with Cirrus and Maestro, this debit card was the first of its kind in South Asia.
10 years after introducing ATMs in 1998, the bank rebuilt its entire IT infrastructure from scratch. Why? Because they predicted that the Internet would revolutionize banking in the near future. Fast forward a few years, today we see online banking had also now become an integrated aspect of their many services.
Eventually, “the bank needed a separate arm” CEO Muralidharen says, in order dole-out innovative technology and occasionally serve solutions for glitches along the way. Still, however, little changed for the company since 2006, which aspired to reach international standards. It wasn’t until “around 2011” that SITS started accommodating more than just the needs of its parent company and “looked into the outside market.”
“Our initial business was just small scale software development” commissioned by clients. “Now” the story has changed, “We’ve been growing” ever since. A staff of over 150 see to “a wide range of business profiles” of which software development is only an aspect. Hardware or “infrastructure management, document management solutions” are a few largely popular new services. Interestingly as one is bound to find on the ‘solutions tab’ on their website, among other popular services is a “snail mail tracker.” Attention to the simpler details hasn’t escaped the strategists at SITS who have designed a method for institutions to track their post.
A Clientele of industry powerhouses such as MAS Holdings, Unilever, Dialog, Hayleys Group, CBL and Asian Alliance Assurance suggest that SITS have got their formulae right. Reiterating this is the ISO 9001-2008 certification recently awarded to the company. Signed-up with The Oracle, international tech giants such as IBM and CISCO have also joined hands with the subsidiary which now markets a few of their products as well.
Covering significant ground at a calculated yet quick speed takes a combination of factors according to CEO Muralidharen. “We have a well- trained, well-paid staff,” he says most of whom have been on board for the company’s life of 10 years. Being customer-conscious and thinking from their perspective is yet another factor he feels has contributed to their success. Perhaps most notably he feels the deep respect of SITS’ independent status has also been at play. There has never been any “special treatment” on either part- “we think of them as another client.” The sentiment is reciprocated by Sampath Bank which “has always treated us like a separate company,” allowing their supplementary to flourish in reaching new heights.