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1) Definition

Branchless Banking (BB) is one of the marvels of innovation in the fields of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and BPR (Business Process Re-engineering). It is the mode of rendering financial services through distribution network without having conventional branch brick and mortar set up.

2) Distribution Network

The success of BB model is primarily dependent upon the efficient management of distribution network. The distribution network is the backbone of BB. The Network includes two segments i.e. Agent and Technology. The agent may take the form of retailers, shopkeepers, petrol pumps, the supermarket chain, street vendors, couriers, post offices etc. You can imagine the variety of distribution channels to widen the outreach of financial services for the masses. While each agent is equipped with adequate technology infrastructure to support the processing of financial transactions. Most frequent technologies include Mobile Phone, Point of Sale (POS) terminal, Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Biometric Verification Terminal, Internet etc.

3) Financial Inclusion

Financial Inclusion refers to the provision of financial services to the unbanked/ low-income segment of society at an affordable cost. The ratios of financial inclusion are one of the prominent factors of economic growth and prosperity. Acquisition of financial services by the unbaked/ low-income segment could improve the standard of living, stabilize earnings, evolve opportunities, promise better returns on savings, enhance literacy/ education ratio, ensure availability of cheap credits, raise government revenues etc.

Following are some major factors which limit the process of financial inclusion:

  1. Non-availability of requisite financial services

  2. Low literacy ratio

  3. Inefficient Product distribution channel

  4. Lack of awareness

  5. Lack of customized financial products for low-income segment i.e. savings, insurance, advances etc.

  6. Strict regulatory compliance requirements i.e. KYC (Know Your Customer), CDD (Customer Due Diligence) etc.

  7. Lofty Transactional cost

4) Financial Inclusion through BB

BB provides a solid platform to address limitations of conventional banking network to empower low income/ unbanked segment of society. BB carries following advantages in quest of financial inclusion:

a)      Availability of admissible financial services at lower cost

b)      Robust roll out of branchless banking delivery channel

c)      Potential to tap the unbanked/ low-income segment of society due to minimum regulatory requirements regarding CDD, KYC etc.

d)      Pledge seamless outreach of financial services 

5) Statistics

The level of financial inclusion in Pakistan specifically and in the region generally is depicted in an extract from “The World Bank Financial Inclusion Data” indicated following comparison of total population of Pakistan/ region for the year 2014: 

Parameters

Pakistan

South Asia

High Income OECD countries

 

% of total population having age of 15+ years

Bank Account

13 %

46 %

94 %

Formal Saving

3 %

13 %

52 %

Formal Borrowing

2 %

6 %

18 %

*Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD)

6) BB Model

As per the Policy of State Bank of Pakistan, only Bank led model of branchless Banking is allowed for the establishment of BB setup. Bank led model may take the following forms:

a)      One-to-one (1-1) Model

In this model one bank offers mobile phone banking services in collaboration with a specific Telco. As a consequence, the services may only be offered to customers using the mobile connection of that specific telco.

b)      One-to-many (1-∞) Model

In this model a bank offers mobile phone banking services to customers using the mobile connection of any Telcos. This model offers the possibility to reach to any bankable customer who has a mobile phone connection.

c)      Many-to-many (∞-∞) Model

In this model, many banks and many telcos join hands to offer services to virtually all bankable customers.

d)      Alternate Channels

Branchless banking can also be done using agents other than Telcos and using technologies not limited to the mobile phone (like GPRS, POS terminals etc.). 

7) Types of BB Transactions

SBP has allowed following types of BB transactions:

a)      Opening and maintaining a BB Account: A BB account can be opened and operated by a customer with a bank through the use of BB channels. Account capabilities/limits are commensurate with the level of customer due diligence (CDD) and KYC procedures the customer has undergone.

b)       Account-to-account Fund Transfer: Customers can transfer funds to/from their BB account from/to their other pre-registered/regular accounts (current/saving bank accounts, loan limit accounts, credit card accounts etc.)

c)      Account-to-Person Fund Transfer: Customers can transfer funds from their BB account to other non-BB accountholders. The transaction limits and KYC requirements are explained in the relevant section of these Regulations.

d)      Person-to-person Fund Transfer: Any person without a BB account can also transfer funds to any other non-BB accountholder. The transaction limits and KYC requirements are explained in the relevant section of these Regulations.

e)      Cash-in and Cash-out: Customers can deposit and withdraw funds to/from their BB account using a variety of options including bank-branch counters, ATM machines, and authorized agent locations.

f)       Bill Payments: A BB account can also be used to pay utility bills (e.g. Gas, Electricity, Phone etc.) However, the amount of payment of utility bills shall not be counted as part of existing transaction limits allowed to BB accountholders.

g)      Merchant Payments: Customers can use a BB account to make payments for purchases of goods and/or services.

h)      Loan Disbursement/Repayment: FIs, particularly MFBs may use BB accounts as a means to disburse loan amounts to their borrowers having BB accounts. The same accounts may be used by customers to repay their loan installments.

i)        Remittances: BB accounts may be used to send / receive remittances subject to existing regulations.

8) Types of Branchless Banking Accounts

The State Bank of Pakistan has allowed following accounts under branchless banking ambit:

Account Type

Description

Transaction Limits

Maximum Balance Limit

Level – 0

Basic BB Account with low KYC requirements and low transaction limits

Rs. 15,000 per dayRs. 25,000 per monthRs.120,000 per year

Rs 100,000

Level – 1

Entry Level account with adequate KYC requirements commensurate with transaction limits.

Rs. 25,000 per dayRs. 60,000 per monthRs. 500,000 per year

No Limit

Level – 2

Top level account for individuals as well as businesses offering all BB facilities and subject to full KYC requirements.

FI must set limits commensurate with each customer‘s profile and FI‘s own capacity to monitor activities in such accounts.

Level – 3

Account specific for merchants, businesses, banking agents, technology service providers, and corporations. These accounts may also be utilized for various disbursements like salaries/payrolls, pensions, grants, donations etc.

FI must set limits commensurate with each customer‘s profile and FI‘s own capacity to monitor activities in such accounts.

In addition to account-to-account funds transfers, following two categories are being introduced for domestic fund transfers:

Types

Description

Limits

Account to Person

Fund Transfers by BB accountholder to other persons (non- accountholders)

Rs. 25,000 per month (For transactions up to Rs.15,000, requirements of person-to-person funds transfer shall apply)

Person to Person

Person-to-Person fund transfers (Non-accountholders). Persons availing this service shall be registered by the FI after due verification process for subsequent transactions

Rs. 15,000 per month

9) Typical Branchless Banking Mechanics

a)      BB license from issued by SBP to the FI

b)      FI entered into super agency agreement with the Telco

c)      Deployment of BB Core system

d)      Telco entered into sub-agency agreement with franchise/ retailer network for BB transactions

e)      Registration of franchise/ retailers in the BB Core system

f)       Establishment of cash management procedure to enrich franchise wallets (BB accounts)

g)      Retailers enrich their wallets through purchase from franchise

h)      Walking customers approach sub-agents for remittances/ other payments

i)        Each remittance/ other payment charges according to schedule of charges

j)        The beneficiary receives remittance from sub-agent

k)      Registration of individual’s BB account to be used for remittance/ other payments

l)        Commission on BB transactions to be divided among Telco, Franchise, Retailer, and FI

m)   The BB transaction may also be initiated through POS, ATM, other electronic channels

10) G2P

The terminology G2P stands for “Government to Person”. It signifies social payments made by Government to masses. The social disbursement usually involves a large number of people requiring immediate/ timely disbursement of funds. The recent examples of such payments are made under BISP, IDPs, EOBI, pensions, bait-ul-mal payments etc. The BB infrastructure provides the Government to remit funds to different social segments with transparency along with efficiency.

11) Branchless Banking Indicators/ Players

A review of BB transactions/ indicators in Pakistan, for the last two years, indicated promising and steady growth.

Indicators

2013

2014

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Q1

Q2

Q3

Number of agents

64,716

93,862

110,214

125,027

148,324

168,615

186,618

Number of Accounts

2,398,888

2,642,941

2,966,306

3,475,458

3,831,868

4,238,178

4,713,145

Deposit as of date (Rs in million)

1,391

2,391

2,320

2,639

4,911

6,219

5,652

Number of transactions during quarter (No. in 000)

41,130

44,760

51,914

54,100

68,535

71,194

66,806

Value of transactions during quarter (Rs in million)

170,796

173,231

224,024

234,646

278,348

326,131

375,945

Average size of transaction (Rs)

4,153

3,870

4,315

4,337

4,061

4,581

5,627

Average number of transactions per day

457,005

497,333

576,822

601,113

761,501

791,041

742,293

(Source: SBP Quarterly Branchless Banking Newsletter)

Major Players in BB Banking are as follows:

Product

Bank

Telco

Easypaisa

Tameer Microfinance Bank Ltd.

Telenor

Omni

United Bank Ltd.

Multiple

Timepey

Askari Bank Ltd.

Zong

MobiCash

Waseela Microfinance Bank Ltd.

Mobilink

HBL-Express

Habib Bank Ltd.

Multiple

Upaisa

U Microfinance Bank Ltd.

U Phone

Mobile Paisa

Bank Alfalah Ltd.

Warid

12) Branchless Banking – Challenges

a)      Development of new product/ services

b)      Alignment the existing Branchless Banking regulatory framework with the customer requirements of new product & services

c)      Ensure compliance to the regulatory/ operational requirements at  sub-agents level having wide span of geographical dispersion

d)      Impart awareness and training to sub-agents on regular basis at a massive scale

e)      Reduction in Branchless Banking transaction cost in order to attract un-bankable segments

f)       Development of secured information technology infrastructure

g)      Synchronization of management of both FI and Telco

h)      Development of technology based innovative solutions

i)        Establishment of public confidence in BB transactions

This article is posted on December 2015. Download it here as a pdf file.


About the Author:

The author is the head of Internal Audit at one of the premier microfinance banks of Pakistan. He has a wide professional experience in financial sector and holds diversified certifications, i.e., CA, CIA, CISM and CISA.

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