Mobile money to flourish if stakeholders collaborate: analysts
Digital financial services are yet to flourish in the country for the lack of a participatory approach from the regulators and operators, which ultimately deprive customers from advanced services, experts said yesterday at a roundtable.
“Bangladesh Bank needs to look from a wider angle and focus on modern technology to attract more investment in this sector,” said Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, chief executive of Bangladesh International Arbitration Centre.
The dialogue -- Role of digital financial services in promoting inclusive growth: challenges and opportunities -- was organised by UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka.
Ali, also a former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the time has come to declare the mobile financial sector as a different entity.
“The way banks are serving their customers is not fit to help flourish digital financial services,” said Ali, former chairman of the bKash board.
Mustafa K Mujeri, executive director of Institute for Finance and Development, said in a keynote presentation that this is a huge untapped segment as less than 2.5 crore MFS accounts are active. The total number of accounts is 5 crore.
“For expansion of this service, coordination between Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is a must. Negotiation for mutual benefit participation between banks and mobile operators is also important.”
Bangladesh achieved a lot in this field but the lack of interoperability is a challenge, he added.
Currently, an MFS provider cannot send money to another operator's wallet. “Interoperability can facilitate customers and agents to get maximum benefits, which is now missing in this market,” said Mujeri.
Abul Kashem Md Shirin, managing director of Dutch-Bangla Bank that runs mobile financial service 'rocket', said they are facing challenges in getting connectivity from mobile operators. That is why only two banks are visible even though 19 banks are in service.
He pointed out that over the counter transactions are a problem and digital 'hundi' is another obstacle.
Kamal Qadir, CEO of bKash, said they generated a huge volume of data in the last six years of its operations, the analysis of which is sufficient to find the criminals in this area.
This same data would be able to point towards a solution that will help increase foreign remittance, he added.
Sudipto Mukerjee, country director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said there is a lacking in the collaboration between the mobile operators and banks.
TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said competition should be open and a healthy collaboration is needed between the operators, regulators and law enforcing agencies.
Some top officials of the operators became angry and left the event when the moderator was not giving them an opportunity to speak. Feisal Hussain, regional coordinator of UNCDF Asia, moderated the open discussion.
In the panel discussion, SK Sur Chowdhury, deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the central bank will not allow mobile operator-led mobile financial services as they are conservative.
“We will not allow any mobile operator-led model, only a bank-led model.”
He said they have been awarded for their regulation processes and current policies from world leading agencies, and they are happy with it.
Chowdhury said current services help narrow the income gap and to send money from urban to rural areas, which is a big part of financial inclusion.
Eunusur Rahman, secretary of the Banking and Financial Institutions Division, said mobile financial service is the only alternative to deliver financial services to 60 percent of the unbanked adult population of the country.