ISLAMABAD - Netherlands Queen Maxima along with senior PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif visited First Women Bank Limited in Islamabad Wednesday.

Queen Maxima and Maryam Nawaz were briefed by Ms Tahira Raza, President First Women Bank Limited on the opportunities of financial services for the people especially women entrepreneurs.

Maryam Nawaz and Queen Maxima also interacted with the female beneficiaries of the bank under the umbrella of PM youth business loan. So far 156 loans worth Rs 187 million have been sanctioned under PM youth business loan scheme through First Women Bank.

Later on Queen Maxima and Maryam Nawaz also interacted with the loan beneficiaries who had put up stalls showcasing their relevant successful business ventures. The Queen felt very happy to see the vibrant, energetic and thriving female entrepreneurs of Pakistan, who are showing their mettle in running successful businesses from boutique to dairy farming.

Meanwhile, Queen Maxima chaired a roundtable discussion on “Future of Digital Financial Services” in Islamabad.

Queen Maxima is visiting Pakistan in her efforts to promote financial inclusion.

The Round Table was organised by State Bank of Pakistan.

Queen Maxima said that Pakistan has one of the best regulatory frameworks which provide strong foundations for taking financial inclusion to its next level.

She emphasised that the industry should collaborate to remove at least some of the key bottlenecks over the next three to four quarters to realise the potential of Digital Financial Services. Discouraging use of excess cash, availability of smart cell phone for the women and rationalising cost of branchless banking services were some of the suggestion made by Queen Maxima. Sharing international experiences, she mentioned that interoperability should be viewed as a public good.   

Before start of the detailed discussion, Governor SBP Ashraf Wathra, while giving his welcome remarks said that Digital Financial Services (DFS) has the potential to overcome the hurdles posed by the conventional business models.

He pointed out that branchless banking is both convenient and affordable for underserved demographics in a highly cost-efficient manner.

Governor Wathra shared that enabling regulatory environment has helped create the digital financial landscape in the country. “Industry infrastructure has evolved as a key alternate delivery channel, advancing itself continuously to every nook and corner of the country”, said the Governor.

While giving an overview of state of affairs of the branchless banking industry in the country, he pointed out that Digital Financial Services channel is largely used by low income persons. Round table discussants drilled down the key challenges and highlighted the need for bringing down the cost, increasing public trust and confidence in DFS through awareness and a need for learning from international practices.

Concluding the roundtable discussions, Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmad stressed upon the industry players to collaborate more for integrated solutions to remove the bottlenecks.

He emphasised the role of other important stakeholders such as SECP and PTA in promotion of M-wallets accounts and other important areas which are essential in the promotion of Financial Inclusion and providing inclusive and sustainable services to poor segment of the society.

The roundtable was attended by Chairman of PTA Syed Ismail Shah, Ambassador of Netherlands, senior representatives of regulatory bodies, NADRA, Telcos, Financial Institutions, Technology Services Provides, Donors and Multilateral Agencies.