CGAP releases briefing on branchless banking in Pakistan – a laboratory for innovation
Date Posted: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
As regular readers of this blog will know, we are excited about the developments that we’re seeing in branchless banking in Pakistan, which have led us to call it a “laboratory” for innovation. Most recently I interviewed Mansoor Hassan Siddiqui, the Director for Banking Policy and Regulations at the State Bank of Pakistan about the recent changes to the Branchless Banking Regulations that, among other things, removed the need to capture biometric information at the time of account opening.
These changes to the regulation seem to have unleashed yet more activity. Easypaisa, the longest-established service in the market launched by Tameer Microfinance Bank and their parent company, mobile network operator Telenor, now claims over half a million mobile accounts following a major campaign. The mobile account will complement their over-the-counter bill payment and domestic money transfer services which together have processed a total of Rs 43 billion (US$500 million).
The other major player in the market is UBL, which launched their Omni service in April last year, only six months after easypaisa’s debut. UBL is supporting a number of government and NGO programs in the distribution of cash transfers to nearly two million beneficiaries through their network of 5,000 agents. Recently, UBL started accepting loan repayments for microfinance institutions (MFIs) and providing cash management facilities for businesses.
Two other players, First Microfinance Bank and MCB have already been granted branchless banking licenses under which they are running pilots. The State Bank of Pakistan last month issued a microfinance bank license to Waseela, a subsidiary of Orascom – who also own Pakistan’s largest mobile operator. The move was seen by many industry analysts as a necessary step towards getting a branchless banking license which will allow Mobilink to launch a service to compete with easypaisa.
There are several other banks that are also considering applying for branchless banking licenses and many non-banks such as the courier firm TCS. Other mobile operators are also looking for suitable banking partners that will allow them to launch their own services.
This CGAP Brief released today summarizes the latest developments and offers a commentary on the biggest challenges facing the branchless banking sector in Pakistan.