LAHORE – SALMAN ABDUHU - The State Bank of Pakistan has issued licence to Askari Bank for branchless banking as the central bank’s audit of a pilot project initiated by Zong Telecom and Askari Bank has been completed in mid of Sept, 2012.

Industry sources said that Zong and Askari Bank had entered into a pilot project on May 22 this year, which went under audit of the State Bank of Pakistan and after declaring it successful, the central bank has granted them license to launch complete branchless banking in the country.

Now the telecom company, in collaboration with Askari Bank, will launch a complete branchless banking solution including wide spectrum of services like mobile account, money transfers, utility bill payment etc.

The product will include all of the branchless banking services that Zong is going to offer, in addition to innovative services like salary disbursements.

The project is a joint venture arrangement between Zong and Askari Bank, therefore the revenue will also be shared between the partners. The uniqueness of the project lies in the successful relationship between Zong and Askari bank where none of the parties has any shares or controlling interest in each other, documents revealed.

Executive Director Commercial, Zong, Usman Ishaq, said that branchless banking is only a beginning of a new banking revolution in the country. The company is launching new branchless banking services to foster financial inclusion of the un-banked population in Pakistan. There is no doubt that branchless banking has successfully accelerated financial inclusion and changed the financial landscape in many developing countries but it is still not enough to meet the demand. Zong’s aim is to bridge this gap and bring banking services to customer’s finger tips, he added.

This project is targeted for the unbanked population of the country, who have no means of availing banking and financial services. This would be first of its kind collaboration where a telecom operator and a commercial bank would provide branchless banking services under a relationship where none of the parties has any shares or controlling interest in each other.

Latest data stated that branchless banking is indeed growing at a fast rate in Pakistan. The number of mobile banking accounts has reached 1.45 million - a remarkable growth of 37 per cent during the second quarter of this year. The accounts’ activity level has also improved substantially during the quarter as the number of active accounts increased by 66 per cent. Pakistan is the fastest growing branchless banking market in the world.