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Smartpay : Epic Lanka partners with Bank of Ceylon to transform low-value transactions

11/21/2019 | 08:48am

Epic Lanka, the pioneering leader of FinTech solutions in Sri Lanka, recently joined hands with Bank of Ceylon (BOC) to deliver convenience to Sri Lankan customers and merchants through the SmartPay platform.

With this platform, customers and merchants can register to submit or receive electronic payments for low-value transactions. The solution allows BOC and non-BOC customers to self-activate for the service initially as customers through a simple registration process with the ability to later upgrade themselves as merchants to accept payments.

In a fast-paced society where consumers are always on the lookout for speedier ways to carry out their daily transactions, banks across the globe will look to digitalisation to meet this need. Today's customers are much more in favour of using cards or mobile payment applications in place of using cash, mainly due to convenience and security factors.

Sri Lankan banks and financial institutes are now diligently leveraging on this movement towards a cashless society by introducing cashless and even cardless banking. The growth in mobile usage in Sri Lanka has been a strong catalyst aiding the adoption of cashless operations within the country. According to DataReportal, as at 31 January, 31% of the total population are mobile internet users.

The Central Bank findings indicate that most cash-based transactions conducted in the country are low-valued and projected to be worth over Rs. 1 trillion per month. Day-to-day transactions carried out by customers to purchase essential goods and services fall within this category of low-value transactions. Although the values of such transactions are considered low, the contribution made to the Sri Lankan economy through these transactions is substantial.

Thus, it is evident that the efforts of the Sri Lankan banking industry to promote financial inclusion need to focus on the grass-root levels of the society where the street vendors, tuition providers, local groceries, etc. operate.

Therefore, banks and financial institutes need to formulate ways and means for bringing in these low-valued transactions to the cashless arena. This becomes especially critical because banks and financial institutes incur substantial expenses towards installing ATMs, CRMs and other such facilities to service the cash-based payment requirements of consumers.

SmartPay: A low-value transaction platform

Being one of the most influential brands in the Sri Lankan IT industry for FinTech solutions, Epic Lanka identified the need of the hour for banks and financial institutes to have a secure, convenient and cost-effective platform to facilitate low-value transactions.

In a bid to simplify merchant payments at the grass-root level, Epic introduced its Low-Value Transaction Platform with BOC under the brand name 'SmartPay', which is a comprehensive merchant payment application designed to bring efficiency and security to the transaction processing sphere.

The platform aims at unifying QR code payments by adopting a standardised QR code approach to act as a form factor to represent the merchant-accepting payments ecosystem. The underlying QR code framework is developed as per the LANKAQR specification, which is based on the EMV QR Code Specification for Payment Systems (EMV QRCPS) - Merchant-Presented Mode.

This eventually ensures the support for QR code payment solutions from multiple different local and international payment service operators.

With SmartPay, customers can enjoy the convenience of cardless and cashless payments for their day-to-day necessities. It will be an ideal choice for today's customer who seeks convenience, simplicity, and speed as key factors in their payment experience. Since this is a customer-initiated payment method, the errors will be minimal.

SmartPay registered merchants can accept payments from both BOC and other bank customers through the respective bank's mobile payment application supporting LANKAQR. SmartPay will facilitate merchants ranging from small to larger scale business ventures to accept transactions and enhance their sales turnover and business growth. The usage of QR codes will eliminate high investment and maintenance costs associated with a Point-of-Sale device.

The Mobile Application combines cutting-edge mobile technology to deliver the most secure mobile-based transaction initiation platform. It is framed as per the 'Minimum Compliance Standards for Payment-related Mobile Applications' issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL). The solution helps promote the broader use of mobile retail payments and provides a fast, convenient, secure, and consistent payment experience for consumers and merchants alike.

Merchants with either smartphones or basic feature phones can enjoy the benefits of this platform. Merchant reach is expanded by issuing QR decals for merchants who possess only the basic feature phones.

This flexibility delivers real financial inclusion by embracing the grass-root levels of the society where all consumers may not have access to smart devices. Transactions done through the SmartPay platform are online and real-time, thereby ensuring that customers and merchants are guaranteed speedy payments and settlements.

The platform is open not only to structured merchants with high volumes of low-value transactions but also to the small business owners. Merchants who form a large portion of the market such as boutique owners, roadside vendors, and sellers at the market who had only a cash option in the past are now able to conveniently receive payments directly to their bank account, which they can then withdraw in the form of cash anytime. Therefore, even the smallest of merchants who were previously too costly to terminalise can now be absorbed into the banking ecosystem.

BOC will be able to expand its banking reach by encouraging its grass-root level consumers to utilise this secure technology for accepting low-value payments. This, in turn, will create knowledge amongst this customer base on the cashless movement and enable the banking industry in Sri Lanka to achieve greater heights in financial inclusion.

Having been chosen as the partner by the largest State bank in Sri Lanka, Epic will be able to efficiently facilitate the electronic movement of funds without requiring customers or merchants to handle physical payment instruments.

This will significantly contribute to reducing the dependency on paper-based payments, thereby bringing down the costs of minting paper currency in the country while providing the platform to build and strengthen a cashless payment landscape across all layers of the socioeconomic pyramid.

Commenting on their latest innovation with BOC, Epic Lanka Managing Director/CEO Viraj Mudalige stated: 'As the pioneer of FinTech in Sri Lanka, we are always passionate about elevating the convenience factor of Sri Lankans. Epic Low-Value Transaction Platform transforms a mobile phone into a digital wallet to fulfill payer and payee requirements by integrating digitally enhanced characteristics and world-class security features.

'We have taken a significant step towards millennial banking with the nation's banking powerhouse, Bank of Ceylon. Partnering with BOC, we provide unparalleled convenience to its customers, eliminating the need to carry cash and payment cards while performing cash transactions for various payments. It is time to revolutionise the retail payments landscape in the country by making it possible for the payment technology to be enjoyed by all levels in society.'

BOC General Manager/CEO Senarath Bandara said: 'As Sri Lanka's number one bank, BOC has always taken a keen interest in delivering best-in-class services to all Sri Lankans. We are committed to reach Sri Lankans across all socioeconomic strata and add value to their lives. As the global economy is moving into a cashless and paperless transaction mode, BOC incorporated the same norms to add convenience and empower its customers through an efficient payment mechanism.

'Epic Lanka has successfully partnered with us to achieve this objective. With Epic Low-Value Transaction Platform, we believe that we can narrow down the existing digital gap in electronic payments to allow BOC to extend its reach across the pyramid of socioeconomic groups.'

The solution provides a gamut of benefits to banks, merchants and customers. Users are given the utmost convenience of using a single application to make payments to merchants and accept payments from customers.

This has resulted in allowing BOC to grow its merchant acquiring ecosystem, turning every customer into a potential merchant. Banks and financial institutes will, on the other hand, be able to reduce costs incurred on the operational aspects of handling physical cash.

Leveraging on the geofencing technology embedded in the solution enables targeted marketing campaigns to be carried out to users within a specific area whereby customers would be notified of these promotions or campaigns via push notifications. It would be possible to push marketing campaigns, graphical and text-based displays of offers and promotions to users.

The platform will also be able to integrate with BOC's existing loyalty schemes and redemption programs. The solution further features a standardised API to enable authorised third-party applications and service providers to connect and interact with the payment platform, thus enabling electronic payment acquisition by respective merchants having their applications.

This breakthrough innovation introduced by Epic Lanka will redefine the payment infrastructure of the country while driving the Sri Lankan banking industry to greater heights in implementing disruptive innovations.

What is in store?

To keep abreast of industry trends, the solution has been designed to continuously evolve into a robust mobile-based payment platform to meet with business needs and future consumer demands. The versatility of the platform enables newer features and functionalities to be delivered to consumers with minimal impact to the bottom line.

Work has already initiated to enhance the platform to accommodate other networks, a third-party mobile and online payment options such as Visa QR Solution, Mastercard MPQR, Alipay, WeChat Pay, etc. to the same infrastructure. The entire merchant base of BOC is also planned to be absorbed into this ecosystem.

Moreover, disruptive business scenarios such as spot fine payment collection, remote insurance premium collection, government utility payments, government entity payments, charity, and donation payments, Mahapola and bursary disbursements, and transit payments are currently in the pipeline. The final goal is to transform this platform into a lifestyle partner while delivering disruptive transactional capabilities to drive widespread customer and merchant acceptance.

Epic Low-Value Transaction Platform wins big at the coveted National Best Quality ICT Awards (NBQSA) 2019

The cutting-edge Epic Low-Value Transaction Platform was adjudged the Best Mobile Payment Application of the Year at the recently concluded NBQSA 2019. This recognition was jointly awarded by the British Computer Society (BCS) Chartered Institute for IT Sri Lanka Section and LankaClear Ltd.

This award category was open to all organisations that are involved in developing digital mobile payment applications and platforms whereby such organisations provide innovative platforms, solutions, and devices to enable digital payments targeting businesses and end customers.

© Pakistan Press International, source Asianet-Pakistan

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