Mobile banking rattles banks
Banks, the traditional leader in payment systems, see mobile banking as a new threat if private telecom operators are allowed to use their outlets for money transfer without law.
The central bank governor has taken the bankers' concern into account and asked them to submit recommendations in writing in two weeks, a senior bank official said.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Salehuddin Ahmed held a meeting with the bankers yesterday over the issue, which came to a head after the central bank moved to make policies on mobile banking.
“We have given our opinions at the meeting and told the central bank that banks have no objection to using modern technology as a tool of expanding delivery channels,” Mahmud Sattar, president of the Association of Banks Bangladesh (ABB), told The Daily Star.
But the transactions must be done through the banks, and mobile phones should be used as a mere banking tool, he said.
“A mobile phone outlet cannot be used as a bank branch."
“We won't let anything, which hurts the banking industry, happen. Banks have been asked to submit their proposals in two weeks on the proposed policies,” said a senior central bank official.
The decision to consider banks' recommendations came at the meeting between the bankers and the BB governor. The meeting discussed two proposed policies -- a guideline for mobile phone banking and a set of rules for mobile-phone payment systems.
If the policies are approved, the banks say, mobile operators' outlets will be used as payment centres. Banks fear the phone companies will take away a large swathe of their business because of thousands of outlets across the country.
Officials present at the meeting said banks had questioned the definition of mobile banking and its legality. They said the facility might be abused.
“This new payment system needs to be regulated and supervised," said Muhammad A Rumee Ali, chairman of BRAC Bank. "I welcome the move, but it must be under a legal framework to protect clients' interests."
Ali, a former deputy governor of the central bank, said, there might be huge scope for abuse of the facility without a proper law.
"Mobile banking will be equivalent to a bank's traditional business, but banks are operated by tough laws,” said another private bank official who attended the meeting.
“BB should make a law first to introduce phone banking as the money laundering issue is directly involved there,” he said.
Senior officials of BRAC Bank, Dutch-Bangla Bank, Dhaka Bank, Standard Chartered and HSBC were present at the meeting.
The bankers who attended the meeting said the governor had assured them that there would be no decision that affects the banking business.
The BB has taken the step after Grameenphone's application in December last year for a licence to introduce mobile phone banking.
On receipt of GP's application, the BB held several meetings with the government agencies and departments, undertook research and studies and visited Thailand and the Philippines.
Local bankers claimed that mobile phone banking exists only in the Philippines, South Africa and Kenya.