Sampath Bank

Q: Could you outline the brand’s history?
A: With over 35 years in banking, Sampath Bank has built its identity on three core values: simplicity, technology and humanity. Moreover, with over 90 percent of transactions being done digitally as early as 2018, we see ourselves as a tech company offering banking services, rather than a bank offering technology-based financial solutions.

This digital advancement has helped the bank deliver customer value, thereby driving business growth, making Sampath the third largest private bank in the country while becoming the youngest to achieve an asset mark of one trillion rupees.

Today, the brand embarks on a new journey to see Sampath Bank humanising its technological leadership to deliver excellent value to customers. It’s not about what we do for ourselves but for our customers – this is the thought that propels our journey.

While technology has been the means of greater convenience, it can result in a society that is more transactional and therefore, more socially distant. As a bank with strong roots in human values, we want to contribute to a world where the value of technology is fortified by the values of humanity.

We want to create a world in which transactions can take place swiftly but always hold the truth closely. Behind every transaction is a human act and these values are what make our people rich.

Q: Your assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on brands and branding is…?
A: The pandemic highlighted the importance of investing in brands and how they should deliver the promised value at times of difficulty. COVID-19 was a shock to both organisations and customers.

In times of chaos, trust becomes the driving force – and branding is all about trust. A brand promises a certain pre-communicated level of quality and sets the expectation of customers at that level. In normal times, delivering on this expectation isn’t very complicated.

However, during turbulent times like this, it certainly tested the communicated value proposition of brands; and many brands didn’t do too well.

If you take banking, one generally communicated brand promise is that you will be able to withdraw the money you deposit with a bank at any time you want. This was really tested during the pandemic as certain areas in the country were locked down, restricting both customers and bank staff from operating.

Customers needed money but couldn’t get it. Banks had money but couldn’t give it. Sampath Bank identified this problem and entered into a transformational partnership with PickMe to deliver cash to our customers’ doorsteps. This initiative was greatly valued and appreciated by our customers.

Q: What role can brand investments play in accelerating business recovery in the prevailing corporate environment?
A: Coerced by the pandemic, businesses had to pivot their operations from offline to online, with many customers heavily dependent on digital banking services to transact. This shift in customer usage also meant that banks had to move their operations to an online space, creating greater competition and commoditisation.

Businesses find themselves on an equal playing field in the digital space as competition offers similar products or services to the market. Ultimately therefore, brand positioning could drive customer preferences.

At Sampath Bank, our approach to branding doesn’t stem from simply building brand value but driving customer value too.

This customer centricity enabled us to be the first and only bank to launch ‘Touchless Cash Withdrawals’ in August 2021, allowing any customer of any bank to withdraw money from over 455 Sampath ATMs islandwide – without having to touch an ATM.

Rather than focussing on the technology itself, we concentrated on the benefit of such technology in keeping people safe – i.e. by keeping them touchless.

Q: How important is the role of marketing in creating brand value?
A: Decades ago, creating brand value simply meant more communications, which was the marketing department’s role and responsibility. Today, building brand value means creating experiences in which stakeholders, customers, employees, partners and even the general public can engage, and be part of the communication.

In this model of creating brand value, we don’t focus on communications alone but also on acts that draw the participation of our stakeholders, be it online or offline.


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