SBP unveils framework for online account opening

September 16, 2021

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan on Wednesday said it devised a comprehensive ‘Customers’ Digital Onboarding Framework’, which will facilitate banks to conveniently and...

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KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Wednesday said it devised a comprehensive ‘Customers’ Digital Onboarding Framework’, which will facilitate banks to conveniently and remotely open bank accounts of resident Pakistanis by using digital channels including websites, portals, mobile applications, digital kiosks, etc.

The SBP has advised the banking industry to implement this framework by December 31, 2021.

With the rapid growth in adoption of electronic banking channels, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand from banks and customers for digital financial transactions has increased manifold.

Under this framework, the account opening process becomes swift and simplified while ensuring compliance with the applicable regulatory requirements and international standards, the central bank said in a statement.

The framework in general provides a convenient way for all segments of society for opening bank accounts; it specifically enables freelancers, self-employed or unemployed women, and recipient of remittances from abroad to open bank accounts digitally with minimum documentation requirements. This initiative would also help in achieving SBP’s financial inclusion objectives by bringing the excluded segments of the society in the formal banking sector.

The framework has been finalized after carrying out extensive consultation with stakeholders, to obtain opinions from industry experts and proactively address the challenges, which microfinance banks might face during the implementation of this framework.

While typically accounts can be opened as either savings or current account, the framework identifies four categories on the basis of functional limits such as deposit or withdrawal limits, fund transfer limits, etc and the documents required for opening an account. These categories include ‘Asaan Digital Account’; ‘Asaan Digital Remittance Account’; ‘Freelancer Digital Account’; and the ‘Digital Account.’

The first category is the easiest to open requiring very basic information and the least number of documents albeit with some limits on functionality. The last category, i.e. Digital Account is without any functional restriction but needs more information for account opening. A customer can start with the basic account and can upgrade over time to a higher level of account type when needed.

The SBP has instructed banks under this framework to ensure that decision to open or decline these accounts does not take more than two working days from the day of completion of all the requirements while ensuring availability of customer support services 24/7 for customer facilitation. Moreover, banks will also be required to provide a tracking number to the applicant for following up on the status updates.

It merits mentioning here that over the years, SBP has provided an enabling regulatory environment for its regulated entities to facilitate various customer segments. The SBP’s recent initiatives include the introduction of the National Payment System Strategy (NPSS), instant payment system (RAAST), Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) and the introduction of Roshan Digital Accounts (RDAs) for Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs).

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