FE Today Logo

The game changer in financial inclusion

SYED MIZANUR RAHMAN | January 17, 2024 00:00:00

Syed Mizanur Rahman is DMD and Head of Relationship Management and Agent Banking, AB Bank PLC

Agent banking has emerged as a pivotal solution in extending financial services to the unbanked and under-banked population in Bangladesh. AB Bank, the very first private commercial bank of Bangladesh, has been at the forefront of driving the agent banking initiative. AB Agent Banking started its operation on January 17, 2018. The customers of Agent Banking Outlets are able to avail all basic banking services at all the agent outlets as well as at all the AB Bank Branches across the country. AB Bank is committed to establish this as the economic hub of the community so that the true spirit of Digital Bangladesh can be well supported by bringing the unbanked population of the nation under a banking platform through this innovative financial inclusion.

Recognising the potential of this model to bridge the financial gap, AB Bank strategically embraced agent banking to broaden its outreach. The bank's commitment to financial inclusion is evident in its meticulous selection and training of agents. AB Bank ensures that its agents are well-equipped to serve customers efficiently and maintain the highest standards of customer service. This approach not only facilitates access to financial services but also contributes to building trust within the communities. Currently we have 192 Agents in more than 50 districts. While acquiring agents we have been very selective in recent years considering the risk associated in this area.

Over the years, like many other banks, we have also had a few bitter experiences impacting the trust of the customers. These have caused mainly due to the lack of proper customer awareness. We strongly believe that the industry needs to be more careful in selecting the right agents as any incident taking place relating to agent outlets will have serious impact in the entire agent banking industry as well as the trust of the customers, not to mention the reputation of the bank itself. One of our main objectives is to establish sustainability of the agents as well as maintain a high standard for our agent outlets in terms of customer service and outlet branding. We also follow few key strategies while expanding our agent footprint. These are as follows:

1. GEOGRAPHIC EXPANSION: AB Bank has strategically expanded its agent banking network, reaching areas that were previously underserved. By establishing agent points in rural and remote locations, the bank has played a crucial role in bringing banking services closer to the grassroots.

2. DIVERSE SERVICE OFFERINGS: AB Bank's agent banking model goes beyond basic transactions. The bank has diversified its services to include all types of banking services available at the branch. This comprehensive approach ensures that customers have access to a wide range of financial tools to improve their economic well-being.

3. TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION: To enhance the efficiency of agent banking, AB Bank has invested in technology solutions and we are still continuing to improve on it. The integration of digital platforms allows for seamless transactions, real-time reporting, and secure financial interactions. This not only benefits customers but also streamlines the operational processes for the bank.

4. FINANCIAL LITERACY INITIATIVES: Recognising the importance of financial education, AB Bank has initiated various programs to enhance financial literacy in communities served by agent banking such as Kachari Boithok which is a public gathering mostly in the yards, educating participants in various aspects of financial literacy and customer awareness. These initiatives empower individuals with the knowledge needed to make informed financial decisions, fostering economic empowerment at the grassroots level.

In 2024, we will have key focus on creating customer awareness as well as expanding our footprints covering all the districts of Bangladesh. This has been well observed that lack of customer awareness ultimately gives the opportunists conduct various frauds. It is a challenging task and the entire industry as well as the regulator must work collectively in creating customer awareness which will ultimately strengthen the trust of the customers as well as building sustainable agent network.

Agent banking in Bangladesh, spearheaded by AB Bank, has proven to be a transformative force in expanding financial inclusion. The bank's strategic approach collectively underscores the bank's commitment to creating a more inclusive and financially empowered society. As agent banking continues to evolve, AB Bank's pioneering contributions serve as a noteworthy example for other financial institutions to follow in the journey towards a more inclusive financial landscape.

[email protected]

Share if you like