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Interview

Visit by General Manager of Bamcard Company Alma Ahmic, 22. 03. 2015.

 

INTERVIEW: ALMA AHMIĆ, GENERAL MANAGER OF BAMCARD COMPANY

 

By: Hamed IBIŠEVIĆ

SARAJEVO, March 22 (ONASA) – General Manager of BamCard Alma Ahmić in an interview for ONASA Agency talks about the credit card operations in BiH, contactless payments, expansion of the network of ATMs, admission of new banks, the most popular credit cards, introducing RMV chip against misuse of credit cards, the absence of a common clearing house for all banks, operating on the principle of “shared infrastructure”, work on the development and implementation of new and innovative projects and other topics.

ONASA: How did it come to the idea for establishment of BamCard company and how long did it take to go from idea to practical implementation?

AHMIĆ: Bamcard company was founded in 1999 on the initiative of banks with the aim of establishing coordinated planning and development of common infrastructure to support credit card transactions.
As the only switch and card processing center of a third party in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we provided for all banks what they would have to secure on their own otherwise (software and machinery equipment, space, infrastructure, professional staff, know-how…).
With the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina we established a system of net settlement for Clearing and Settlement of domestic transactions between banks.
BamCard supports card business in segments: Mastercard, Visa & BamCard Issuing (EMV, magstripe, contactless), Mastercard, Visa & BamCard Acquiring (EMV, magstripe), card personalization (EMV, magstripe, contactless), monitoring of ATM and POS network, Fraud & Risk Management, printing and enveloping (for statements, bills, notices, advertising materials), monthly and quarterly statistics and creating reports for clients, call center (outgoing and incoming calls, outgoing and incoming SMS actions).

ONASA: What are the main BamCard’s business indicators in 2014? What success are you most proud of?

AHMIĆ: We are most proud of the fact that BamCard over the past 15 years was a pioneer in credit card operations in BiH market, and I would single out recognizable projects in recent years: the implementation of the first domestic payment card – BamCard in 2002, then in 2004 the implementation of the first Visa & MasterCard EMV chip card; in 2012 we were the first company to get certified according to the PCI DSS security standards, a year later we had the implementation of the first Visa reloadable prepaid card; as well as the implementation of the first joint ATM network – BH ATM network.
This trend continued in 2014.
Among other activities and projects, I want to point out a couple of important projects on which the BamCard team worked over the past year, and those are the implementation of the first Mastercard Co-Brand Card, implementation of the first contactless Mastercard, and the expansion of BH ATM network.
The positive effects of our many years of efforts are evident and recognized by our customers, which is reflected through the continued trend of introducing new services and products, especially in recent years. The result is that every year we record a growth in the number of credit card transactions conducted by our customers, and in 2014 we achieved a record increase of credit card transactions by almost 30 percent compared to 2013, while the indicator in previous years was significantly lower with the average annual growth of 10-15 percent.

ONASA: For those who may not know, could you explain how much the presence of BamCard is important for the banks and the users of services which you offer?

AHMIĆ: Bamcard is a rare example of sharing infrastructure and operating under the “economies of scale” principle in our country. What most of the banks do not know is that the BamCard is the only clearing house for domestic card transactions. We currently offer clearing service only to our own customers – BamCard members, ie. if both the the issuing bank and accepting bank are in the BamCard system, regardless of whether these are domestic (Bamcard, Kartica bez granica) or international cards (Visa or Mastercard).
Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina conducts the alignment for domestic transactions of BamCard member banks. The lack of a common clearing house for all banks is the most important aspect of the slow development of the card business in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike other countries, in Bosnia and Herzegovina there is no established clearing center for all banks which would enable clearing of domestic card transactions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and, instead, most banks use clearing services of international credit card companies. This method of operating considerably raises the cost of card business for all participants, specifically for banks, retailers and end customers who at the end of this chain bear all these additional and unnecessary costs. Despite all the new products and services launched in the past few years, in general, there is still plenty of room for the development of card business with the aim of using a card as a means of payment.
All participants – issuing banks and receiving banks, and retailers – have substantial costs that prevent them from developing innovative solutions. The advantages of our company in relation to foreign processing centers and clearing houses are first and foremost significantly lower costs for client banks as well as our innovation and flexibility when it comes to new products and services in credit card operations, which have been identified by the banks with which we cooperate, which is why the number of new projects is increasing for us each year.

ONASA: How often did the banks contact you in the previous year with specific requests regarding implementation of new cards? Which cards are the most popular?

AHMIĆ: Last year, we successfully cooperated with banks to implement various card products such as prepaid cards, Mastercard Debit cards and Shopping cards. The product that I would highlight is MasterCard PayPass card. Sparkasse Bank is the first bank in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which offered its customers PayPass card in cooperation with MasterCard and BamCard Inc. MasterCard PayPass cards have been improved with modern technology enabling contactless payment with the maximum safety. PayPass cards can be used for purchases at all sales and payout places in the country and abroad that have the MasterCard sign, as well as on the internet. However, despite all the efforts of banks to offer new card products, still the most popular is the debit card that dominates more than 80 percent in the total portfolio of issued cards in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Compared to other countries in the region, this indicator is too high and confirms the fact that in most banks conditions for use of other card products are unfavorable for the end-user or that most banks do not opt to expand their product line because of high initial and operating costs.

ONASA: Could you present more information on the Processing Center of BamCard and state how much resources has been invested in the equipment, infrastructure and how many employees are covering your operations?

AHMIĆ: BamCard is a credit card company that has been successfully operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina for over 15 years, and whose clients are respectable companies. Currently we cooperate with 13 banks and other companies from the non-financial sector. We are extremely proud of the friendly cooperation with our customers as we build long-term relationships that are based primarily on the quality and adequate support, according to their requirements, and in support of this claim is the fact that most banks cooperate with BamCard for over 10 years. All of our operating results were enabled by outstanding work and efforts of BamCard team, of which we are also proud. We keep recruiting and training the experts in the field of card business and information technology in order to improve safety, reliability and quality of provided services. Professional staff of BamCard independently and autonomously works on the development and implementation of new and innovative projects. This has resulted in significantly better financial result as well as reduced costs for BamCard and its users.
In this regard, we can also mention the in-house development of new software in collaboration with partner companies in BiH market for card personalization and processing of credit card transactions (Host Authorization Software). I want to emphasize that the BamCard is the first company in BiH that has adjusted to, and got certified by, PCI DSS 2.0. standard (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). PCI DSS is a security standard prescribed by the credit card companies Visa and Mastercard, which aims to provide the best possible security measures in the card system and protect the end-user in a card payment. Furthermore, BamCard is certified according to ISO 9001:2008 in the area of personalization and processing of payment cards and switching between domestic and international payment schemes.
Through successfully implemented quality management system we provide current and future customers or partners the expected quality of products and / or services. We strongly believe that our customers, who have trusted us in previous years, will be even more satisfied with the level of services provided. Continuous improvement in performance and functionality, technical equipment of the company and continuous training of staff guarantee our future, with the aim of achieving superior support for all users of our services and the quality of our products and / or services.

ONASA: As a company that daily offers new services in the market, could you hint at some surprises that you have in line for this year?

AHMIĆ: BamCard keeps track with the novelties in the market introduced by leading credit card companies in the world, especially concerning the introduction of new technologies to increase safety, the spread of new ways of conducting transactions, the introduction of new methods of payment and adjustment to ever more rapid development, as well as adoption of technological achievements in the sphere of card business. BamCard with its very dynamic, professional and above all motivated staff strives to create services and innovative solutions for customer banks that aim to improve and modernize their operations and contribute to maximizing their satisfaction and reduce their costs. So this year we have some interesting offers for our customers. It is of vital importance for us that banks recognize the advantages of doing business on the principle of “shared infrastructure”. In this context, we can state that we are planning the expansion of BH ATM network with new Mastercard members, among other activities and projects in this year.

ONASA: Are there any announcements of new BiH banks joining you this year?

AHMIĆ: To our great satisfaction, this year we were joined by ZiraatBank BH. Our aim is to improve our business as much as possible and attract a larger number of banks to join the BamCard system.

ONASA: Were there cases of misuse of your cards in previous work?

AHMIĆ: The turning point in increasing the protection and minimizing space for abuse of cards is definitely the introduction of EMV chip, which we were the first to implement in our market for Visa & MasterCard chip cards. In addition to the aforementioned EMV chip cards, through certification according to the requirements of the PCI DSS security standards, protection from abuse in the card system has been increased, and thus the protection of end users in card payments.

ONASA: Could you give an expert opinion on importance of networking of banks in the BH ATM Network, which currently has five members? What are the benefits for the banks, and what are the benefits for clients of member banks?

AHMIĆ: In 2013, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, merging of ATM networks of several banks was achieved under the name “BH ATM network” with the objective of free cash withdrawals for users on a shared network of ATMs of these banks. This joint ATM network is a good example of sharing infrastructure and operating under the principle of “economies of scale”, as well as improvements in credit card operations in our market, as it reduces the costs for banks (procurement and maintenance of the terminal equipment) and provides better service to customers through an expanded ATM network. (end)