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Sampath Bank sweeps victory at Technnovation Awards

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Tharaka Ranwala - Senior DGM - Group Marketing, Deposit Mobilization and Digitalization, Sampath Bank PLC, receiving the ‘Overall Award for Excellence in Inter-bank Digital Payments (Banking Institutions)’, from Jayantha De Silva - Secretary, Ministry of Technology of the Government of Sri Lanka. Also in the picture (l-r) are Pasan Manukith - AGM - IT, Sampath Bank PLC, Dr. Kenneth De Zilwa - Chairman, LankaClear, D. Kumaratunge - Assistant Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Ajith Salgado - Group Chief Information Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, Oshada Senanayake - Chairman, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, Channa de Silva - General Manager/CEO, LankaClear

Sampath Bank was judged ‘Most Innovative Bank’ at the LankaPay Technnovation Awards 2022, a gala event held recently at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. Winners were picked by a distinguished panel of judges with long experience in banking and financial services.

The awards were based on customer-centric criteria–on how quickly and completely the bank’s customers embraced new transactional technology. In effect, the bank’s own customers won the award for Sampath Bank.

The bank can also thank its customers for a Silver Award, the ‘Overall Award for Excellence in Inter-bank Digital Payments (Banking Institutions),’ plus two more coveted Gold Awards for ‘Bank of the Year for Excellence in Customer Convenience (Category A),’ and for ‘Best Acquirer on LankaPay Online Payment Platform’. Sampath Bank also won the Merit award for ‘Bank of the Year for Financial Inclusivity (Category A).’

“This validates our customer-centric approach. The fact that Sampath has won Gold in the ‘Bank of the Year for Excellence in Customer Convenience – Category A’, proves that Sampath Bank is not only identifying and introducing the right innovative technology for customer convenience; but the larger point is that our customers are actually embracing these new ways of transacting banking business, like Touchless Cash Withdrawals. The judges took note of the very high rates of customer engagement with these innovations,” said Tharaka Ranwala – Senior Deputy General Manager – Group Marketing, Deposit Mobilization and Digitalization, Sampath Bank PLC. “We focused on convenience and ease of use, putting a wide array of transactional options at our customers’ fingertips. And we are extremely glad to see them using technology very freely.”

“The user experience is the critical factor. Introducing new technology is an interactive process. You need to see how customers interact with it and then tweak it over time to smooth out the rough edges, so to speak,” said Ajith Salgado – Group Chief Information Officer, Sampath Bank PLC. “Over the last three decades, Sampath Bank has placed its prime focus on enhancing customer experience through IT solutions and has been the trend-setter for IT innovations in the Sri Lankan banking industry. Winning multiple awards at the LankaPay Technnovation Awards 2022 is a great inspiration for the bank to continue the efforts of developing unique and creative solutions in a competitive environment where IT and banking is becoming inseparable.”

The LankaPay Technnovation Awards were inaugurated four years ago to recognize and celebrate those members of the financial sector who have done the most to promote the national transition to digital payments. Aiming to drive financial inclusivity in the country–a key objective of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka–the Technnovation Awards are meant to encourage widespread adoption of the national payment network. The awards criteria for 2022 included interbank transactions during the period from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, and encompassed twelve award categories.

This year’s theme was, appropriately enough, ‘Honouring the Digital Superheroes,’ to recognize the contributions made by banks, non-banking financial institution (NBFIs), and FinTech companies toward delivering payment technology innovations despite the constraints of a global pandemic.

Despite the contemporary obstacles faced by the banking sector in Sri Lanka, Sampath Bank has successfully maintained all its capital ratios well above regulatory requirements throughout 2021. With a total asset value of Rs. 1.2 trillion, this reflects strongly as an indication of the Bank’s stability. Meanwhile, its deposit book stood at Rs 978 Bn at the end of 2021, and continues to enjoy a year on year growth rate of 10.3%. All the while, Sampath Bank has implemented all government-led moratorium schemes for eligible customer segments affected by the pandemic. The Bank’s digitalisation strategy has also continued to prove its worth during these trying times by securing a more accessible and safer banking experience for customers.

Sampath Bank is a 100% locally-owned bank that has deeply rooted itself in the hearts of the people of Sri Lanka. Established in 1987, the bank has become a state-of-the-art financial institution with numerous innovations to its credit. It continues to be a market leader today thanks to its customer-focused approach to banking. Sampath Bank has introduced many firsts to the Sri Lankan banking sector. These include the introduction of automated teller machines (ATMs) to Sr Lanka, extended banking hours for the convenience of customers, slip-less banking and touchless ATM withdrawals. The bank continues to steadily transform itself into a technology-driven financial services provider whilst keeping true to its traditions, values and ideals.



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Private Tutoring Amidst Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis: Issues Faced by Students

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By Usha Perera

Sri Lanka’s education sector, still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, now faces acute challenges due to the current political and economic crises. The sudden imposition of curfews and the lack of transportation have resulted in school closures and students being deprived of structured and systematic in-school education. In Sri Lanka, closing schools for just one day causes a loss of 25 million learning hours and 1.4 million teaching hours. Alongside this, private tutoring has gained greater importance. This blog discusses the issues faced mainly by Ordinary Level (O/L) and Advanced Level (A/L) students in attending tuition classes based on an IPS study. The study findings are derived from a sample of about 340 students, and 16 teachers and tutors across Sri Lanka.

Affordability of Private Tuition Classes

The surge in the cost of living with wages failing to keep pace with inflation and loss of income generation channels have been unbearable for parents of school-going children. The IPS study found that students who belonged to family income levels below LKR 30,000 spend approximately LKR 3,000-Rs. 7,000 per month while students whose family income was above LKR 200,000 spend approximately LKR 18,000- LKR 20,000 per month on private tuition depending on the grade of the student. This scenario is illustrated in Figure 1.

Further, most O/L and A/L level students spend more than LKR 2,000 per month on data packages for both school and tuition online classes, while most students who spend more than LKR 2,000 per month are concentrated among the higher family income categories. If LKR 2,000 is spent on monthly data packages, it would approximately account for 1% of whose family income is above LKR 200,000, and more than 7% of whose family income is below LKR 30,000. All this highlights the perceived importance of private education, especially among O/L and A/L grades, and the financial burden it imposes on a family’s household income.

These affordability concerns were partly offset by the introduction of free online classes during the pandemic, which has provided considerable relief for financially vulnerable students according to students interviewed for the IPS study. Affordability concerns were further allayed by reduced class fees by some tutors. The fees reductions were made accounting for the structural changes of administrative and operating costs of an online setting applicable based on the scale and intensity of operations of tutors. Financial issues faced by the families experiencing household income losses during the pandemic were also considered in fees reduction.

Accessibility to Online Classes

Online platforms were the sole medium for conducting classes during the pandemic while it becomes an option in the current context considering the social unrest, curfews and travel constraints due to fuel shortages. However, many students faced accessibility issues in joining online classes. The issues faced were poor signal coverage, high data costs, lack of necessary devices, and affordability concerns in the context of lost household income during the pandemic. Most of the students who belonged to a family income level above LKR 200,000 used a laptop/tablet while most of the students who belonged to a family income level of below LKR 30,000 relied on a smartphone. Smartphones were found to be less user friendly for academic use. In addition to the above issues, the ongoing power outages also present impediments to online education.The accessibility issues are mainly experienced by students from families with comparatively lower income levels, and those who had to rely on a smartphone for academic purposes. This implies a close positive relationship between household income and the quality of the education received; financial strength being the primary determinant of accessibility.

Figure 1: Monthly Tuition Expenditure by Monthly Household Income
Source: Institute of PolicyStudies of Sri Lanka, 2021.

However, these accessibility issues were partly offset by the divergent opportunities experienced by students, especially in the context of online platforms. These prospects included the ability to join online classes conducted in distant locations that would otherwise have been restricted due to travel constraints and increased time available due to school closures. As a result, they increased the duration of tuition classes using the saved travel time.

Way Forward

While private tutoring became a way of bridging the gaps in the education system during the crisis, learning losses for the most vulnerable groups have further widened with accessibility and affordability issues. Since these issues were mainly observed among O/L and A/L student groups, there is a higher risk that vulnerable student groups would be highly challenged during their most decisive years leading to higher education and career development. Thus, it is necessary to address the affordability issues, focusing more on the vulnerable student groups. Financial assistance could be provided in terms of a certain number of free hours of teaching for selected financially vulnerable students and allocating a selected proportion of students to be taught at a concessionary rate.

To address the accessibility issues, recording the lessons and distributing the notes on different platforms will help to a certain extent. Providing digital equipment and networks for selected tuition centres and schools could also be considered since the lack of facilities and resources was identified as major accessibility issue for distance education. These would require collaborative efforts among the government, tutors, parents, non-government organisations and any other well-wishers.

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Allianz Divitharana: A new take on Life and Health Insurance

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The world’s number one insurance brand Allianz has announced the launch of its new Divitharana Insurance product, which provides comprehensive life and health insurance for policyholders and their loved ones, at an easily accessible and affordable price. The product, which has been designed for the mass market, a segment that is highly price sensitive, comes with a host of benefits and features, making it a truly comprehensive insurance product, that covers all of life’s important bases, protecting life’s most precious things.Tailored for the mass market, which includes farmers, fisherfolk, technicians, teachers, executives and other members of the general public, Divitharana Insurance provides life insurance at a flexible and economic price point, with the option for policyholders to settle the premium in monthly, quarterly, biannual or annual instalments, while also providing the convenience of increasing the cover provided during the policy period, without having to go for a new policy. These are particularly important features amidst the present economic challenges the nation is facing, as it allows everyone to have access to good and reliable insurance, regardless of their income level and style.

A key differentiator of Divitharana insurance is that each policyholder will be entitled to an individual investment account, on which an annual dividend will be declared and the proceeds credited to the policyholder’s account. On top of this, policyholders will also be entitled to an additional loyalty bonus of 20%, which will be added to the maturity value for continued on-time premium settlements. other than the life cover provided by Divitharana, policyholders can also opt to include additional covers such as Disability Benefit, Critical Illness and Hospitalisation cover, while also enjoying the flexibility of extending the insurance cover to include their spouse & children.

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SLT-MOBITEL doubling the cloud with country’s first-ever VMware Cloud Foundation deployment

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Understanding the importance of breaking new ground to reap the benefits of Enterprise premium cloud services, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider, has become the country’s first-ever service provider to enable VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) deployment in the island and importantly the first telco provider to have two clouds. Amidst the changing dynamics, the deployment milestones are supporting SLT-MOBITEL’s Cloud programme in accelerating digital transformation.SLT-MOBITEL Enterprise premium cloud was launched in 2018. Having a successful journey for over three years, the new mobilization now elevates and transforms the premium cloud through VMWare Cloud Foundation. Importantly, SLT-MOBITEL is the first local organisation to partner VMWare as a Business Continuity Certified Planner (BCCP) and initiate VMWare Cloud Foundation in Sri Lanka.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a suite of VMware products that provide building blocks necessary to implement an integrated software-defined data center platform. Its components combine to automate deployment and lifecycle management, helping to simplify IT operations and reduce administrative overheads for enterprises.With its Cloud Verified Status and as a VCF Enabled Partner, SLT-MOBITEL is now in the forefront as the only service provider in the country offering a range of new differentiated services such as automate infrastructure and application delivery with self service capabilities to help organizations plan, manage and scale their data center operations especially dramatically reduce provisioning times and cut operational costs.

The SLT-MOBITEL VMware VCF deployment ensures customers transition to the industry’s most advanced cloud platform with a complete set of software-defined services for compute, storage, networking, security and cloud management to run enterprise apps in private or public environments.By doubling the cloud SLT-MOBITEL establishes customers have both production and disaster recovery sites with different scales, located at two different Data centres with required ROP and RTO. The Disaster recovery site can be deployed at any scale with respect to production sites according to the enterprise customer’s requirement. SLT-MOBITEL also provides migration as a service with the features from NSX –T.

Through VCF, SLT-MOBITEL is offering customers the benefit of real disaster recovering services, a Software-defined Data Center (SDDC) and monitoring services, latest networking enablers with NSX – T up-to-date versions of VMware software vSphere, vSAN and intelligent, advanced VMware capabilities including ESXI and VSAN and efficient and effective migration services. SLT-MOBITEL also provides IaaS services, Virtual Machines, and Virtual Data Centers along with a range of other support facilities such as Disaster avoidance with Stretch Cluster (RPO 5 minutes), Disaster Recovery as a Service, and Backup as a service.Above VCF deployment is directly done by Vmware Professional Service team to ensure the highest quality deployment .

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