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Fintech to Expand Financial Inclusion in Pakistan

About 100 million Pakistani adults lacked access to formal and regulated financial services as of 2016, according to a World Bank report on financial inclusion.  Only 2.9% of adults in Pakistan had a debit card, and only 1% of adults used them to make payments. Just 1.4% of adults used an account to receive wages and 1.8% of adults used it to receive government transfers in 2014. Since then, Pakistan has been leading the way in South Asia in digital finance and branchless banking.

According to the latest State Bank statistics on branchless banking (BB) sector, mobile wallets reached a high of 33 million as of September 2017, up 21% over the prior quarter. About 22 percent of these accounts – 7.4 million – are owned by women, up 29% in July-September 2017 over previous quarter. A McKinsey and Co analysis shows that adoption of financial technology (fintech) can help dramatically increase financial inclusion in Pakistan.

Karandaaz Pakistan , a non-profit organization, set up jointly by UK’s Department for International Development and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is promoting financial technology in the country. Finja and Inov8 are among the better known fintech startups in the country. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's Ant Financial's recent entry in Pakistan is creating a lot of excitement in Pakistan's fintech community.

Financial and Digital Inclusion in Pakistan. Source: Brookings Inst...

Importance of Financial Inclusion:

Access to regulated financial services for all is essential in today's economy. It allows people and businesses to come out of the shadows and  fully participate in the formal economy by saving, borrowing and investing.

Those who lack access to regulated banking services are often forced to resort to work with unscrupulous lenders who trap them in debt at unaffordable rates. Such loans in extreme cases lead to debt bondage in developing countries.

Financial inclusion is good for individuals and small and medium size businesses as well as the national economy. It spurs economic growth and helps document more of the economy to increase transparency.

Status of Financial Inclusion in Pakistan:

About 100 million Pakistani adults lacked access to formal and regulated financial services as of 2016, according to a World Bank report on financial inclusion.  Only 2.9% of adults in Pakistan had a debit card, and only 1% of adults used them to make payments. Just 1.4% of adults used an account to receive wages and 1.8% of adults used it to receive government transfers in 2014. Since then, Pakistan has been leading the way in South Asia in digital finance and branchless banking.

M-wallets Growth in Pakistan in millions. Source: Business Recorder

Mobile wallets, also called m-wallets, are smartphone applications linked to bank accounts that allow users to make payments for transactions such as retail purchases. According to recent State Bank statistics on branchless banking (BB) sector, mobile wallets reached a high of 33 million as of September 2017, up 21% over the prior quarter. About 22 percent of these accounts – 7.4 million – are owned by women, up 29% seen in Jul-Sep 2017 over previous quarter. Share of active m-wallets has also seen significant growth from a low of 35% in June 2015 to 45% in September 2017.

“The benefits of digital payments go well beyond the convenience many people in developed economies associate with the technology,” says Dr. Leora Klapper, Lead Economist at the World Bank Development Research Group. “Digital financial services lower the cost and increase the security of sending, paying and receiving money. The resulting increase in financial inclusion is also vital to women’s empowerment.”

A McKinsey and Co analysis shows that adoption of financial technology (fintech) can help dramatically increase financial inclusion in Pakistan. Pakistan is ranked 16th among 26 nations ranked by Brookings Institution with an overall score of 69% in "The State of Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report" for 2017. The Internet revolution is enabling rapid growth of financial technology (fintech) for increasing financial inclusion in Pakistan.

A McKinsey Global Institute report titled "Digital Finance For All: Powering Inclusive Growth In Emerging Economies" projects that adoption of financial technology (fintech) in Pakistan will add  93 million bank accounts and $36 billion a year to the country's GDP by 2025.   It will also create 4 million new jobs and add $7 billion to the government coffers in this period.

McKinsey report says that "Pakistan has solid digital infrastructure and financial regulation in place and has even had some success in digital domestic-remittance payments".

Fintech Players in Pakistan:

There are a number of companies, including some startups, offering fintech applications for smartphones that are linked to bank accounts. EasyPaisa operated by Telenor Microfinance is already well established. Among some of the better known startups working to disrupt the financial services sector in Pakistan are Finja and Inov8.

China's e-commerce giant Alibaba runs a major global e-payments platform Alipay. It also owns Ant Financial which has recently announced the purchase of 45% stake in Pakistan-based Telenor Microfinance Bank.

Telenor Pakistan runs its own e-payments platform EasyPay which will likely link up with Alipay global payments platform after the close of the Ant Financial deal.   Bloomberg is also reporting that Alibaba is in serious talks to buy Daraz.pk, an online retailer in Pakistan. These developments are creating a lot of excitement in Pakistan's fintech and e-commerce communities.

Alibaba and Alipay and other similar platforms are expected to stimulate both domestic and international trade by empowering small and medium size Pakistani entrepreneurial businesses and large established enterprises.

Karandaaz Fintech Promotion:

A key player promoting financial inclusion is Karandaaz Pakistan , a non-profit organization, set up jointly by UK’s Department for International Development and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  It is providing grants for a number of local initiatives to develop and promote financial technology solutions in Pakistan.

Karandaaz Pakistan is promoting Fintech startups in  5 areas of focus:

1) Access to Financial services

Credit Scoring Models, Formalize savings through need based products, Digital lending services, and Insurance

2) Payments

Retail payments solutions through QR code,  Supply / Value Chain Digitization,  Ideas around digitization of online payments and merchant payments

3) E-Commerce

Smoothening of on-boarding process, Enabling Escrow Accounts for a retail merchant, Alternate payment modes other than COD

4) Interoperability

Innovative ideas to address the lack of interoperability among m-wallets

5) Early stage ideas related to:

 M-Wallet Use cases, Education of Financial Services through technology, Customer Engagement / Experience, Micro Credit, Digital Savings

Summary:

About 100 million Pakistani adults lacked access to formal and regulated financial services as of 2016, according to a World Bank report on financial inclusion.  Only 2.9% of adults in Pakistan have a debit card, and only 1% of adults use them to make payments. Just 1.4% of adults use an account to receive wages and 1.8% of adults use it to receive government transfers in 2014. At the same time, Pakistan is leading the way in South Asia in digital finance and branchless banking.

According to the latest State Bank statistics on branchless banking (BB) sector, m-wallets reached a high of 33 million as of September 2017, up 21% over the prior quarter. About 22 percent of these accounts – 7.4 million – are owned by women, up 29% seen in Jul-Sep 2017 over previous quarter. A McKinsey and Co analysis shows that adoption of financial technology (fintech) can help dramatically increase financial inclusion in Pakistan.

Karandaaz Pakistan , a non-profit organization, set up by UK’s Department for International Development and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is promoting financial technology in the country.  Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's Ant Financial's recent entry in Pakistan is creating a lot of excitement in the country's fintech community.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Fintech Revolution in Pakistan

E-Commerce in Pakistan

The Other 99% of the Pakistan Story

FMCG Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Bank Deposits Growth in Pakistan

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Channel 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on April 27, 2018 at 8:47am

Pakistan Adopting Advance Technologies Rapidly: Anusha Rehman
Daniyal Sohail

https://www.urdupoint.com/en/technology/pakistan-adopting-advance-t...

Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rehman Friday said, Pakistan was one of those countries that had been adopting the advance technology most rapidly to counter challenges of modern, digital era.

While addressing the concluding ceremony of five-day "Huawei mobile Pakistan Congress 2018" the minister said, the technology advancements were coming in Pakistan adding "we also hope that we can have huawei made in Pakistan as soon as possible." Anusha said, Ministry of IT had started projects for Baluchistan worth Rs 26 billion to provide 3g service to the people there.

In the history of IT of Pakistan, this was the biggest investment for Balochistan, which aimed to target hundreds of villages to connect these remote areas with 3G service, she added. She said,a population of about 196,177, covering 269 mauzas and an area of 39,434 sq kms would get modern broadband facilities through this project.

The project would cover Awaran, Jhal Jao and Mashkai tehsils/sub-tehsils of Awaran district and Bela, Lakhra, Liari, Uthal, Dureji, Hub, Sonmiani and Kanraj of Lasbel district, she added. The Minister said, after launching 3G services in Baluchistan, other services like careem would be start in in the province which would be a great achievement of Ministry of Information Technology.

She emphasized the importance of technological advancement and virtual assistance for the generations to come to bring this nation on path of Technology evolution and prosperity. "Government is making all out efforts to introduce 5G technology in Pakistan by 2020 to bring it at par with Developed economies in term of technology advancements." She emphasized that women's economic empowerment was at the heart of the sustainable development and essential to achieve gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.

She shared initiatives steered by IT ministry in this regard, particularly ICT for Girls program. She said, achievements of Pakistan in the arena of ICT and future plans for continued growth in this sector would enable transformation into "Digital Pakistan".

Anusha described the DigiSkills program as an important part of Information Technology initiative of the government that would create online employment opportunities to enable youth to earn 200 to 300 dollars per month and with the help of this program, youth from across the country would provide services across the globe.

She appreciated the Huawei Technology role in setting such precedent to promote emerging technologies in Pakistan by involving Industry players and engaging the Government to make it reality. The Minister hoped that people of Pakistan were going to use the opportunities that were created by Huawei, the technology giant.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Tuesday

Ant Financial is about to upend the entire Pakistani retail banking sector
‘There is ZERO realization of what is coming and how big this sea change will be

http://www.atimes.com/article/ant-financial-is-about-to-upend-the-e...

anking in Pakistan has not, to put it diplomatically, reached its full potential. It is so inefficient, according to one industry insider, that more than 35 banks provide services to only about 12% of the population. But Omer Salimullah, a fintech specialist with Karachi-based JS Bank, wrote in a post last week that the days are numbered for this sorry state of affairs, and China’s Ant Financial will be the catalyst.

The Alibaba subsidiary took the plunge into the Pakistani financial services market with an acquisition earlier this month, looking to tap into the potential of around 100 million un-banked individuals. Ant Financial’s acquisition of Telenor Microfinance Bank for the sum of US$185 million is “a VERY big deal,” Salimulla emphasized. “As a comparison, 100% of RBS Pakistan was sold to Faysal Bank for US$ 50 million. Please note that Ant has not valued a Pakistani micro finance bank at US$ 410 million. What they have valued is the almost complete takeover of the retail financial services market from incumbent banks,” he said.

Ant’s partnership with Telenor’s mobile banking brand, Easypaisa, is going to transform banking services in the country, and synergy with a possible acquisition of Pakistan’s largest e-commerce player Daraz, will expand the ecosystem even further. The Chinese fintech giant stands to swallow up a huge chunk of the youth an un-banked market, according to Salimulla, and many small to mid-sized banks will not survive the next several years.

“There is too much old-world thinking in corridors of powers in banks. There is ZERO realization of what is coming and how big this sea change will be,” he warned.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Tuesday

How Ant Financial Will Completely Change the Pakistani Retail Banking Landscape

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-ant-financial-completely-change-...

Banking in Pakistan is an extremely in-efficient industry where 35+ banks have only been able to bank 25 million Pakistanis in the last 70 odd years. This means that as an industry, banks are providing their services to only 12% of the population. The branchless banking industry has not fared much better either with only 35 million wallets out of which 50% are inactive (no activity in the past 3 months). This is a sorry state of affairs by any yardstick. In the new world, wherever there has been inefficiency in an industry, it has been disrupted – big time! Uber, Didichuxing, Careem, Grab have decimated the taxi industry worldwide. AirBnB has dented the hotel industry significantly to the extent that Airbnb is now bigger than the world's top five hotel brands put together. PayTM in India (Ant owns more than 50% of Paytm and has injected close to US$ 1 billion into this company) has now become the biggest financial firm in India, in less than five years. and plans to become the world's largest digital bank with 500 million account holders. With all the inefficiencies found in it's midst, the retail banking industry in Pakistan is a prime candidate for this type of massive disruption.

In this backdrop comes the Ant Financial Services Group (“Ant Financial”), established by Alibaba Group and its founder Jack Ma acquisition of 45% of Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB) for US$ 185 million at a total post money valuation of US$ 410 million. Make no bones about it - this is a VERY big deal. As a comparison, 100% of RBS Pakistan was sold to Faysal Bank for US$ 50 million. Please note that Ant has not valued a Pakistani micro finance bank at US$ 410 million. What they have valued is the almost complete takeover of the retail financial services market from incumbent banks. They realize that Pakistan is one of the most in-efficient banking markets in the world and it will be simple to take every last morsel of the retail banking pie from banks. The market potential of some 100 million un-banked individuals is a mouth-watering prospect for Ant.

How Will “Ant Paisa Bank” Take Over Retail Banking in Pakistan?

Go big on QR: Ant will introduce Alipay (or a local variant) here in Pakistan. This will be their big play to capture a huge chunk of retails payments which are currently happening in cash. QR uptake has been slow in Pakistan where only small players like FonePay are pushing it. With the financial & marketing muscle that Ant brings, they will make QR payments common with incentives on both the merchant and customer side.

- Digital Lending: This will be the secret sauce which finally tips the scale for digitization payments in Pakistan. Consumer lending via Ant has reached $95 billion in China and Paytm in India launched Paytm Score in February which they will use to lend to users of their platform. Our biggest hurdle in digitizing cash payments has been the reluctance of users (especially merchants) to document their cash flow fearing tax implications. In a country where less than 1% of the population pays tax, this has always been the biggest impediment in digitizing payments. However, once the conversation switches to these merchants receiving funding/loans from Ant based on their throughput via Ant channels (i.e. giving loans to small businesses for purchasing goods from Ali Baba), they will be more than happy to roll the transaction through digital channels.

-

Comment by Riaz Haq on Tuesday

How Ant Financial Will Completely Change the Pakistani Retail Banking Landscape

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-ant-financial-completely-change-...

Technology Stack: In a recent interview post the Ant investment, Shahid Mustafa, CEO of Telenor Bank said “….there’s a sunset date for the current technology and that’s when we will look to upgrade the back-end technology”. With all the financial clout that Ant will bring, the thing that will break the proverbial camel’s back (the camel being the Pakistani financial industry) will be the tech prowess that Ant will introduce in Pakistan. MIT Tech Review published an article with the headline “Meet the Chinese Finance Giant That’s Secretly an AI Company” referring to Ant’s AI, computer vision and natural language processing capabilities. This is how important AI is to Ant. Last year the company acquired EyeVerify, a U.S. company that makes eye recognition software. Ant will bring AI powered payments, lending, insurance, and anti-fraud capabilities to Pakistan and completely transform the way financial services are delivered. Think Instant and Frictionless.

- Amazing User Experiences: The news of Ant buying Daraz, the largest e-commerce player in Pakistan, has been doing the round for quite some time. If this deal goes through, Ant will bring it’s world class e-commerce expertise via Ali Baba to Pakistan. Digital payments has always been a challenge for e-commerce in Pakistan. Having both the payment and e-comm side under its control, Ant can make a huge dent into both these fledgling areas. Imagine being offered an AI-powered personalized & instant loan on shopping done on Daraz. Imagine being able to file an insurance claim for a car accident where all you need to do is take a picture of the accident and Ant’s AI image processing engine will finalize the findings in seconds. Imagine bots talking to Pakistanis in any regional language to handle customer service or conduct transactions (voice will remove the last block in making digitization widespread in Pakistan where lack of education prevents reading and writing based solutions to gain traction)

Why Does This Matter to Existing Banks?

With the marketing and tech muscle that Ant will bring into Pakistan, the next 24 months are going to be critical for small to mid-sized banks. Easypaisa is a brand that resonates both with the un-banked and the youth. These markets are major growth areas for banks going forward and if these are taken away by Easypaisa due to providing delightful user experiences, the oxygen will be sucked out of this industry. Expect to see a LOT of mergers among the incumbent banks. The big-5 may survive due to their corporate and treasury business but the mid to small sized banks will go under water due to the coming tsunami. It may seem that I may be overstating the threat but this is not the case. There is a high level of digital illiteracy on the management boards of Pakistani banks and the average age of C-level suites in banks is 50+. There is too much old-world thinking in corridors of powers in banks. There is ZERO realization of what is coming and how big this sea change will be.

What Can Existing Banks Do?
Are we looking to help banks that charge customers an average of PKR 50 for an Interbank Fund Transfer (IBFT) transaction (some are charging more than PKR 150) while giving out free checkbooks? Most banks think they’ve become digital because they’ve rolled out a mobile app. All the other important areas like account opening, lending, payments continue the way they were implemented in the mid-90s. This is not digital. And no Head of Digital Transformation or a Head of Innovation can convert a dinosaur into an agile cheetah. Transforming an organisation is next to impossible due to legacy systems and legacy mindsets (Nokia and Kodak couldn't do it).

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