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Serge Belamant

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Born in Tulle, France in 1953.

Arrived in South Africa from France at the age of 14 with his family; Father was a tiler by trade.

Serge Belamant London

Education[edit | edit source]

Attended Highlands North High School for boys - Had to learn to speak and write English; excelled in sports such as Rugby, Athletics as well as Chess.

Became Head Prefect in 1972, was awarded full colours in Rugby, athletics, chess and academics - was Victor Ludorum in 1971 and 1970, house captain, member of both the science and bridge club. Represented Southern Transvaal, multiple times, in the South African Chess school championship - 6th position in 1972.

Matriculated in 1972, with a university exemption pass.

Attended Witwatersrand University and studied engineering and in second year changed to computer science and applied mathematics. Discontinued his studies and took 3rd year courses in information systems through UNISA. Never completed his degree as he would have had to repeat subjects he had already passed.

Career[edit | edit source]

Joined an engineering firm called Matrix, a division of BKSH, a large civil engineering company. Worked on small to medium size IBM computers using finite element analysis software. Developed applications on Cyber computer to analyse dam levels in RSA and predict future droughts and optimise dam levels.

Was assigned at the CSIR (centre for scientific and industrial research) to head the computer section of the PWV (Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Vereeniging) road planning project. Used statistical methods, developed graphics interfaces, digital mapping, road network analysis and the like.

To earn some extra cash, assisted Control Data's engineers to perform bench marks against various computer manufacturers such as IBM, UNIVAC, BURROUGHS, ICL Could code in FORTRAN, COBOL, PL1, PASCAL, \various ASSEMBLERS, APL., ALGOL.

Was offered a job at Control Data (super computer manufacturers) to join the application support team called Cybernet. Was involved in debugging code and assisting in operating various scientific packages from structural engineering to linear programming. Was awarded the analyst of the year in 1980.

Received training in Washington DC in linear and non-linear programming to run the COBRA system for the RSA military. Modified and optimised the application for RSA specfications and aptitude testing.

Joined the Control Data operating system support group and took over as head analyst for ESKOM (national grid supplier), weather bureau, JCI (mining), CSIR and Palindaba (nuclear research).

Won the systems' analyst award of the year in 1982.

Moved to DATABANK to create the first scientifically driven financial system using Control Data equipment. Created the VIB network. VIB was bought by Volkskas.

Moved to Bancorp as consultant to the MD for risk management and analysis. Developed a 10-step programme to analyse risk and test business sustainability. As a result was awarded full membership of the RSA computer society.

Was head hunted to join SASWITCH to drive the IT division as sanctions were being implemented against RSA. Designed, developed and implemented the National ATM switch in RSA connected to all RSA banks using Stratus computers (fault tolerant and synchronous). This proved very successful and SASWITCH became the 2 largest ATM switch in the world.

SASWITCH System[edit | edit source]

In 1989, after Serge Belamant had completed the development and implemented the new SASWITCH system, he conceptualised the first RSA POS system based on a network of X.25 interconnected workstations. This was not implemented by the banks as they first wished to determine the value proposition which could be achieved by rolling out POS devices on a national basis and how the revenue split would be divided amongst the banking partners.

Serge Belamant therefore decided to leave SASWITCH and started his own company based on one of his initial patents namely the FTS (Funds Transfer System). In October 1989, he founded Net1.

Net1[edit | edit source]

During the first few years, Net1 attempted to provide its UEPS system (the resulting application from the use of the FTS) to various institutions such as banks without a great deal of success. However, in 1995, Visa entered into an agreement with Net1 for Serge Belamant to design and develop a new Visa application called COPAC (Chip Offline Pre-authorised Card) using FTS/UEPS technology. Serge Belamant relocated to the USA to complete this project.

In 1999, Net1 bought CPS (Cash Paymaster Services) from FNB. CPS provided a system to pay welfare grants to around 1 million South Africans in rural areas. By applying the UEPS, Net1 was able to modernise the payment of grants by providing interoperability, speed and security. During this time, Serge Belamant was praised by Stafford Thomas, a well-known journalist, who equated the achievement to that of Henry Ford.

Net1 grew mainly outside of South Africa and signed deals in Namibia, Botswana, Burundi , Russia and later on Ghana, Iraq to name a few.

During 2003 and 2005, I was working to list Net1 on the NASDAQ which I achieved in 2005. I became the Chairman and CEO of Net1, positions I held until 2017.

Net1's capitalisation, when at its peak, reached more than the 2 billion USD mark.