Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A look at the spectacular growth in Pakistan's branchless banking industry

I have written a lot about the mobile banking revolution in Pakistan on this blog (Read here and here for some samples). It is possibly because we have done such a lot of work in this country and also because the country and its people are so close to my heart. But in fairness, one must also look at the emmense progress just on the merits of it. Pakistan is the only country with a population of more than a hundred million that have embraced branchless banking (from regulators, to banks and mobile operators) and have made a success of it.

The StateState Bank of Pakistan (SBP) recently signed a MOU with the Pakistan Tellecomunication Authority (PTA) - making it one of the first instances where the two relevant regulatory bodies governing mobile banking have formally joined forces to grow the market (Read here). During the signing ceremony, the governor of the SBPquoted some impressive statistics in terms of agent penetration and volume of transactions. At the same time the The World Economic Forum global report on Mobile Financial Services praised Pakistan for the fast growth in branchless banking in the country (Read here). The report described Pakistan as "a breeding ground of innovation for branchless banking" involving a wide range of players collaborating in this new eco-system, including MNOs, technology companies and even courier businesses.

 It therefore does not come as any surprise that one of the biggest investors in the country, the Abu Dhabi Group (ADG) recently announced that they would launch an independent mobile financial services company. (Read here). It seems that the plan is to bring branchless banking products to the market through two of its investment companies: Bank Alfalah (a leading bank) and Warid (one of the bigger operators in the country).

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