GP, Robi to partner with Bank Asia on agent banking

Top two mobile phone operators Grameenphone and Robi are set to enter into a partnership with Bank Asia on agent banking – a move that is expected to give huge boost to the new service and deepen financial inclusion.

Both operators, which together control more than 75 percent of the market share of mobile phone subscribers, received permission from Bangladesh Telecom-munication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to this effect in a meeting last week.

The operators are expected to roll out the service next week.

"Mobile phone operators have extraordinary capacity and we can use it to explore untapped markets," Md Arfan Ali, president and managing director of Bank Asia, told The Daily Star yesterday.

BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque said, "We hope this collaboration will help the financial inclusion and help the country grow more."

According to the plan, retailers and distributors of the operators will work as the representative of Bank Asia to provide banking service.

The operators will ensure security and monitoring in accordance with the laws of the central bank and have to submit a copy of the certification to the BTRC.

The operators will share revenues with the BTRC from its gross earnings from the agent banking service, like they do with the commission for telecommunication service. Mobile phone operators share 5.5 percent of gross earnings with the commission and another 1 percent goes to the social obligation fund.

The BTRC has also asked the operators not to discriminate against customers while providing service and offer additional benefits on telecom services for availing agent banking service with them, according to the conditions attached by the BTRC. Robi, the second-largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh, welcomed the move.

"This decision will have huge impact on digital financial inclusion," said Shahed Alam, head of corporate and regulatory affairs of the operator.

"We will be able to reach the remotest places of the country using our vast mobile network."

In October last year, Robi signed agreements with four banks, including Bank Asia, the market leader in agent banking.

Robi will complete its preparation to launch the service next week at its 400 touch points, said a top executive of the mobile operator. GP, the leading operator, declined to comment.

There are 30 lakh accounts under agent banking and deposits stand at Tk 30,000 crore. The service channeled Tk 5,000 crore in remittance into the country last year, according to Ali.

"These numbers will grow hugely in the coming years."

He said the industry needs to collaborate with each other to boost the economy.

"To accelerate the financial inclusion, we are trying to bring in new products and this partnership is one of them," he said.

"The partnership will bring the unbanked people under the banking network even in the remotest parts of the country and expand the banking network faster than ever." As per plan, the operation will be run by software provided by the banks and the mobile operators will seek permission from the central bank to run it on mobile applications.

The latest financial indicators of the central bank showed that agent banking is on the right track: deposit collection through the service stood at Tk 2,013 crore in the April-June quarter last year, up 23.19 percent from that a quarter ago.


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