What is the importance of being associated with the US based CROEM Inc?
We partnered with it 10 years ago. It was one of the first Payment Card Industry (PCI) companies in the world. Now, Sigma is duly certified and thanks to the partnership with Croem we have our own development center and programmers. To process credit card payments, you require a license issued by the major credit card companies. We were one of the first private companies to hold PCI compliance licenses. Previously, this service was offered and performed by banks only, without the participation of gateways. We negotiated with a number of banks and ultimately received Metro Bank's support, and now our services are being catered to all clients.
How would you assess the latest trends emerging in Panama's ICT sector?
Technological development in Panama is attracting interest amongst investors. We have a number of professional developers in the workforce. Their technical skills are competitive, although certain other professional skills need advancing. It is important to give staff the opportunity for promotion and to further their careers. At Sigma, we are ardent about supporting our talent. We deal with delicate data here, such as credit card details; therefore, our employees must comply with the terms of trust contracts.
How would you assess the competitiveness of the market in which you are operating?
Our major competitors are banks. However, while they compete with us on price, they cannot compete on service. These are banks that offer this service without the intermediation of a gateway. For the banks, it is an add-on to their core business. For us, it is our business to provide the best service to clients. Our partnership with Metro is allowing us to offer that excellent service available to their client's as well.
What is your strategy to widen your share in the market?
We have to go on applying the best international standards to our operations and systems. We do so through PCI licenses. They are the industry standard. PCI and DSS are the main licenses. When you comply, you are guaranteeing that all the transactions processed through your systems are viable and secure. If it isn't broken, don't fix it seems to be the general business model philosophy in Panama, where family-owned companies are common. Our main strategy is to challenge that way of thinking.
Who are the most iconic companies and institutions that decided to work with you in Panama?
We are processing all the payments for Cable and Wireless now. We are also processing payments for Movistar, ENA, and PanaPass. We provide services to a lot of SMEs that are our largest share of clients. SMEs make up 94% of the Panamanian economy. It would be ridiculous not to work with those businesses. There are also many self-employed workers in Panama. One of the product lines we develop is portable POS. People such as plumbers and electricians can charge via credit card, which previously was not available locally. The payment industry needs a bank to deposit the funds because by law we are unable to handle funds by/of third parties. We partnered with Metro Bank, our sponsor bank. Opening a bank account in Panama is difficult. With Metro Bank, we created a light account, or merchant account, which facilitates deposits directly. Money can be wired to the merchant account from regular personal bank accounts with ease.
What are your main targets for 2015?
We hope to close a deal with other telephone companies. We are also launching our payment collection site, Metropago. We are in negotiations with a company that holds collection contracts with public service companies and other private services. Additionally, we are launching the virtual side of that business to enable bill payment by credit card.