Bangladesh Bank yesterday gave permission to two banks to provide agent-banking services, taking the banking sector one step ahead in financial inclusion.
Bank Asia can appoint 30 agents and NRB Bank 20 agents to extend modern banking services to clients, according to the central bank decision.
If the initiative to provide services through agent banking is implemented successfully, many small and medium enterprises will feel encouraged to start businesses in rural areas, Anwarul Islam, deputy general manager of the central bank, told The Daily Star.
It will spur employment generation and the tendency of the rural population to move to urban areas will decrease, Islam added.
On behalf of the banks, the agents can transact cash, distribute remittance, gather information for bank accounts, accept loan applications, transact and recover loans and receive applications for credit and debit cards.
Bank agents can also receive utility bills and passport fees and distribute government assistance under social safety net programmes.
However, if the agent commits any irregularity, the bank will have to bear responsibility, Bangladesh Bank said in a statement.
In agent banking, a third party signs an agreement with the bank and provides some banking services directly to the client on behalf of the bank.
Instead of setting up branches, the agent banking system has been accepted in many countries as a means of financial inclusion, according to the statement.
Agent banking has become popular in many developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Earlier, Bank Asia launched agent banking under a pilot project by appointing eight agents in Sirajdikhan upazila, one in Louhajang and two in Srinagar in Munshiganj district. The agents have provided banking services to more than 2,000 clients.