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‘I SEE BANK AS “TIGER” AND FINTECH AS “CHEETAH”’

 


Mamun Seraji is an experienced IT and banking professional with expertise in strategic planning, transformation, solution design, and service delivery.He hadplayed critical role in IT driven project management, system architecture design, system ingratiation, data migration and service delivery while working in BRAC Bank for 11 years.

Seraji has successfully designed critical IT systems which includes Management Information System (OBIEE), Core Banking System(Infosys Finacle, Flexcube UBS), ATM & Card Management System (cardPro, Tranzware, Vision Plus, Base24), Internet Banking (Sungard, Flexcube Direct baking) , ERP(IFS) , Mobile banking (Fundamo) ,Middle ware (Oracle fusion), private cloud ( Microsoft, Oracle), database appliance ( Oracle EXADATA). After Brac bank, he worked in the NRB Bank as its Head of IT.

At present, he is serving at a leading Australian bank as Senior Solution Architect and is contributing to transform this 200 years old startup with five leading brand (Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne, bank SA and BT Finance).


In Bangladesh’s banking arena, Mamun Seraji is a known name. Having headed the IT departments of banks like Brac Bank and NRB bank, Seraji knows the ins and outs of how a banking system is being run like his own palms.

So, when he had set sail for Australia a few years ago, he took two things with him: a vast experience and an indomitable confidence. Those were proven to be good enough to land him in a prestigious position in one of Australia’s top banks.

This successful IT professional recently came to Bangladesh on a vacation. Amidst his busy schedule he found time to take a visit to Fintech’s office. Here is an excerpt of the conversation Fintech team had with him for our readers.

 

FINTECH: You have been with an Australian bank for years now. In which areas you have worked?

M. Seraji:  My specialization lies with the payment system so I have been working with the payment system of a leading bank there. Their payment system is not that much different than that of Bangladesh. They use Visa, we use Visa too. Their money deposit system is encrypted with the same level of complexity that our system is encrypted with. They mostly use Temenos as their core banking software (CBS) whereas we use Flexcube, so technically, the banking systems of the two countries are almost in an equal footing

I would say Bangladeshi banking system is a bit ahead in few areas. They don’t have real time gross settlement (RTGS) system which we do have. Besides, no e-transaction in Bangladesh is made without two factor authentication whereas in Australia, some transactions do.

FINTECH: What are the main differences between their banking services with ours?

M. Seraji: I found out that they work with very specific things. So they are not what we call ‘jack of all trades’—a role Bangladeshi people are well-known for playing. Since Westpac is a mammoth bank, they have separate IT heads and there is are needs for system architects for coordination between the IT heads and different sections. Interestingly, they also outsource a large chunk of their works.

They are very sensitive and sincere about downtime in banking services. They truly believe ‘customer is the king’ and so the customers have the right to be given service on time. They are also very process-oriented but at the same time would give the employees enough spaces and freedom of works. If as an employee, you ask for 10 days for completing a task, they will give you 10 days and will not say anything for the first nine. On the tenth day, they expect you to deliver and if you can’t, still they wouldn’t say anything. But it would obviously hurt your performance chart, which really matters as I said they are very process oriented and systematic, also in evaluation your performance.

They also keep and maintain a number of technological options. To my surprise, I found them having both Temenos and Flexcube. They also do a lot of analysis before taking any new project, so that once it starts, they have a strong contingency plan in their hands to tackle any situation.

In Westpac, they also used to conduct a regular monthly forum. There you can ask them any question and they will answer that. A paradigm shift is actually taking place in Australia—which is customer centric. Like us, they have long been product centric but they realize that a customer centric approach would better serve the bank as well as its customers.

Also interestingly, they staffs in the banks are very lenient about maintaining norms in the hierarchy. In Bangladesh, even for a mid-management staff, getting the hold of CEO or MD is very hard. But there, this communication is very easy.

FINTECH: What is the state of cryptocurrency in Australia?

M. Seraji: Australia is known for having a ‘laid back’ population and I believe in adopting cryptocurrency, they have put on their laid back face. They want to see the crypto experience of other countries and then adopt it to their systems.

That doesn’t mean, they don’t have it; rather it means that their mainstream financial systems haven’t adopted it yet. But it’s prevalent and sort of popular in the underground system. You can buy cryptocurrency there and can do trade with business entities who accept crypto. But since this is an unregulated market and the government bodies have no control over its pricing and availability, it is yet to be brought in the mainstream.

If you ask my opinion about the future of cryptocurrency, I would say crypto is there for to stay. At least I see a number of usages of the block chain system—basing on which the cryptocurrencies are built up—in the near future. It’s a complicated but highly useful system. This is because here you can’t bypass the hassle of ‘designated third parties’. In distributed ledger, the verification process of any transaction is made in multiple ledgers across the system and you can evade the hassle of getting stuck with certain third parties or auditors for verification. As a system, it is very modern and transparent. So I believe, if it is regulated, then crypto will be the future.

FINTECH: Bangladeshi banks are very reluctant in investing on IT. Financial technology is yet to take its full form in Bangladesh. Why do you think this is happening? What is the condition in Australia?

M. Seraji: Fintech businesses have already found their feet in Australia. In fact, the truth is they are making some services of banks anachronistic and thus obsolete and have appeared as a serious contender of tradition banks. The retail services of the banks are mostly being done by the Fintech companies now.This is happening because the banks, with all of its other services have barely the time and resource now to focus on giving some of the retail services which the Fintech companies can do with ease as they are lean and agile. That’s why I see banks as “tigers” and Fintech as “cheetahs.”

I think Fintech business will soon become very popular in Bangladesh. This is because Bangaldesh has a large population and these people need retail banking most. Fintech can provide retail services efficiently and in way faster. ■

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