SBP asks banks not to levy charges


KARACHI: In order to promote digitization in the banking sector and encourage use of digital channels, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has asked banks not to levy any activation, subscription or annual charges on their customers for using Internet Banking (IB)/Mobile Banking (MB) services.

The SBP, under its vision to encourage the use of internet and mobile banking services, has taken some decisions and banks and Microfinance Bank (MFBs) have been instructed to provide minimum set of services on their IB/MB channels. These services will include bill payments, funds transfer/IBFT, beneficiary management, limit management, credit and debit card management, stop cheque payment, etc.

According to fresh directives, financial institutions (FIs) currently offering or planning to offer digital financial services will be required to create a role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or a similar role with a different designation.

The CDO should preferably be a Key Executive responsible for steering the digitization efforts of the organization. The role would be in addition to existing Key Executives as required by relevant regulations. In addition, accelerated digitization should also be part of every CEO’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and the board of the FI should monitor the achievements at least on half-yearly basis.

All FIs providing IB/MB services must provide their interface in English, Urdu and where possible, regional languages and ensure rationalize the use of One Time Password (OTP) on their platforms to improve user experience. However, they will also encourage using other convenient and secure authentication factors to satisfy the 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) requirements. According to SBP, banks and MFBs will also ensure that there are no activation, subscription or annual charges for customers using IB/MB services.

The SBP has also asked financial institutions for Deployment of Interoperable Cash Deposit Machines (CDMs). In order to move towards self-service banking channels and allow round the clock banking solutions to customers and businesses, banks are encouraged to consider the deployment of CDMs at selected locations especially at branches with large number of customers.

According to the SBP, the digitization of the entire payment process is hindered if the customers can make payments to only those billers that are registered with their own bank. Hence, in order to facilitate the customers, the banks have been advised to make necessary arrangements to ensure that their customers can make online payments to maximum number of billers.

Participants and member FIs of a Payment System Operator (PSO) will ensure that all other participants, member FIs and billers of that PSO are enabled on their IB/MB/ATM channels. Further, they will also ensure that new participants/member FIs and billers are added on their respective channels within 30 days of the date of intimation from the PSO.

The SBP has also introduced A Card per Account Policy to promote the use of payment cards. Now the banks will issue debit card to all new bank account holders and customers who have not previously opted for a debit card, unless the customer opts not to receive any payment card. However, this requirement will not be applicable on customers that are not literate, Photo Account Holders and visually impaired persons.

The banks have been directed to discourage the issuance of cheque books and cheque books that are currently being issued by default will only be issued upon customer’s request.

As per the existing practice, FIs have been using signatures and paper based instruments for authenticating customers in branches. To leverage on the existing EMV enabled card based infrastructure, FIs are now allowed to authenticate their customers at branch counters using chip-and-pin cards and 2FA prior to offering them banking services. However, this change should be implemented without causing inconvenience to the customers.

According to the SBP, these steps are just a tip of the iceberg which is in line with SBP’s declared objectives to digitize payment and financial services. The SBP will continue to promote digitization in the country and expects the industry to support these efforts, resulting in increased convenience for the customers to fulfil their financial needs through safe, rapid and secure digital infrastructure in Pakistan.