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March 13, 2015

SBP to increase m-wallets to 50m in five years: Wathra

Business

March 13, 2015

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has developed a strategy, in collaboration with the World Bank, to bring the total number of mobile bank accountholders to over 50 million in the next five years, said its Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra on Thursday.
Branchless banking remains an effective channel to expand the financial outreach to unbanked and under-banked people, Wathra said, addressing the 8th International Mobile Commerce Conference.
At present, five million customers hold branchless banking accounts (m-wallets) to avail host of services, including fund transfer, utility bills payments, domestic remittances, mobile top-ups, loan repayment, and saving account features, he said.
“Presently, monthly volume of branchless banking transactions is 24 million, valuing Rs125 billion,” he added.
Governor Wathra said four more banks, including Bank of Punjab and JS Bank, have recently joined the branchless banking system.
Dr Ismail Shah, chairman of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), said the authority and the SBP are working in close coordination to develop the regulatory framework that supports growth in the mobile banking sector.
Dr Shah said the recent launch of 3G/4G spectrum has revolutionised the lifestyle in Pakistan, as it is playing an important role in socioeconomic development.
The spectrum is not only helping increasing number of mobile accountholders to the required level, but it is also playing a pivotal role in nurturing other sectors, including education, health, commerce and entertainment, he added.
PTA chief said the number of mobile broadband subscribers has reached 14 million in the last eight months, or since the launch of 3G/4G services, from mere four million earlier.
“It (mobile broadband) is expanding on an average by one million new subscribers every month,” he added.
Nadeem Hussain, president and chief executive officer at Tameer Microfinance Bank, said branchless and mobile banking is a

“silent revolution” in the financial sector.
“The branchless banking may help bring Rs2.5 to Rs3 trillion back into the banking system,” he added.
Hussain said: “At present, we are working to develop electronic prize bonds worth Rs100-200 and micro treasury bills, and facilitating purchase of virtual gold for minimum Rs50 to include un-banked people into the financial system.”
“We have observed phenomenal growth during the last few years in the branchless banking industry with the help of enabling regulatory framework provided by the SBP.
It is high time for the industry to shift its focus from over the counter services to mobile wallets, for which we will have to create more awareness among prospective customers,” he added. Atif Aslam Bajwa, president of Bank Alfalah, said: “Becoming a digital bank soon is a matter of survival; banks should take advantage of technological advancement. Otherwise, they would be driven out of the market.”
Davor Ebling, global director at Mobile Money Operations – SAP, said penetration of mobile banking is much higher than the conventional banking globally.
Ghazanfer Azzam of Waseela Microfinance Bank said the National Database and Registration Authority should reduce its verification charges to less than one rupee from the current Rs20-30 for opening a mobile bank account.

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