Remitting by mobile comes on stream
Sending money home has become easier and faster as two banks and a mobile operator yesterday launched a cellphone-based remittance transfer system.
The joint move by Eastern Bank, Dhaka Bank and mobile operator Banglalink will allow the remittance receivers to cash in a day instead of three days to one month through different existing channels.
The new service styled 'Mobile Wallet', which will also serve the unbanked population at no cost, got a shape after Bangladesh Bank (BB) gave a go-ahead to the move a few months ago.
Presently more than 90 percent of the population in Bangladesh do not have access to regular banking facilities.
However initially the mobile remittance service will be available at 19 Banglalink points in Dhaka for a month, and then will expand to 100 points.
The service will hit 2,222 Banglalink 'cash points' across the country within the next three months.
Remittance inflow increased by 20 percent to $10.72 billion in 2009. More than one crore Bangladeshis are now living abroad and their remittances contribute over 10 percent to GDP (gross domestic product), according to BB statistics.
However sending remittance to Bangladesh remains as a hassle in some cases, as the expatriates somehow are compelled to remit through illegal channels due to absence of a proper legal platform.
According to the central bank statistics, the rate of illegal remitting came down to 23 percent in 2009 from 50 percent a year ago.
Bankers said the newly introduced mobile remittance service will help stop money transfer through illegal channels as the service will be available at grassroots level soon.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman inaugurated the service at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
The service will work under a 'bank-led' model and the banks will offer mobile wallet accounts to the remittance receivers through Banglalink network.
The banks will also act as cash custodian for the users, and the mobile operator will be the information carrier and platform manager by ensuring cash point rollout and connectivity.
Selected Banglalink distribution outlets will be used as remittance disbursement cash points for the remittances sourced by the banks.
The remittance receivers with Banglalink mobile connections can open accounts either at Dhaka Bank or Eastern Bank from selected mobile remittance points of the operator by submitting necessary documents.
Once activated, the account holders will be notified by SMS (short message service) and get a secret PIN (personal identification number), which will be needed for withdrawing money. The ceiling of encashment is Tk 35,000 at a time.
However if the beneficiaries do not have Banglalink mobile connections, they can also receive remittance by getting a secured and unique transaction reference number, which will be forwarded by the remittance sender.
In that case, the recipients will have to go to designated Banglalink points with proof of identification and request disbursement by submitting the transaction reference number, the amount and the bank name.
The bankers said the service will benefit both mobile operators and banks. The banks will pay Tk 150 to Banglalink for each transaction, while remittance cash flow to the banks will help them make more profit.
Private banks' annual operating profits grew up to 40 percent in 2009, mainly due to increased remittance inflow.
Zia Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, urged other mobile operators to introduce the service.
Chowdhury Mohidul Haque, executive director of Bangladesh Bank, Khondker Fazle Rashid, managing director of Dhaka Bank, Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director and CEO of Eastern Bank, and Ahmed Abou Doma, CEO of Banglalink, were present at the function.