With the most branches in the rural and remote areas in Việt Nam, Agribank plans to work with more places to bank the local people. — Photo courtesy of Agribank
HÀ NỘI — The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) is amending regulations related to the operation of agency banking to improve access to the banking system.
Agency banking is a type of branchless banking that allows traditional banks to extend their network of branches and services through authorised agents.
The model arrived in the country in recent years, especially since the Government issued the national comprehensive financial strategy in early 2020.
According to the SBV’s research, Brazil, Kenya, Mexico and India have all seen agency banking become an important tool to expand access to basic financial services and promote financial inclusion. Five years since Brazil launched the agents, the network has served 12.4 million new bank accounts.
The state bank said in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s agency banking model uses the nationwide telecommunications network to expand the network of traditional banking services to customers in rural and remote areas at a low cost. The model also helps Malaysian banks save more than 80 per cent of costs for setting up service points and 60 per cent of transaction costs compared to the traditional bank branch network.
According to the latest Comprehensive Financial Report of World Bank released in 2018, 69 per cent of adults in Việt Nam were unbanked and relied on cash while the rate in the world was 31.5 per cent at the same time.
Meanwhile, the national strategy of financial services sets the goal to have at least 50 per cent of communes accessing financial service points and 80 per cent of adults having transaction accounts at banks or other institutions by 2025.
Experts reckon the low rate of bank accessing in Việt Nam is a big chance to develop banking agents across the country.
By the end of 2017, the SBV piloted agency banking in rural areas with three models.
MB Bank work with Viettel services, PGBank with Petrolimex sales points and Vietcombank with M_service Company, reaching 32,185 sales points.
More than 11 million transactions with a value of more than VNĐ81 trillion (US$3.49 billion) were recorded among some 6 million customers.
Outside of the SBV pilot, LienVietPostBank took advantage of post office locations to develop savings services, while Jens Lottner, CEO of Techcombank, shared the bank’s plan to work with Masan Group to take advantage of convenience stores to bring the bank’s financial products and services to a wider population.
Between 2020 and 2025, Agribank plans to set up a network of banking agencies and work with postal organisations, public administrations and microfinance projects to deploy low-cost, convenient, safe products for individual payment transactions.
Seeing the potential of the model, a SBV representative said there must be a legal corridor.
The SBV said completing the legal framework on agents was proposed in the national comprehensive financial strategy) to improve the level of access to financial services for people.
The central bank said it was amending other regulations related to the operation of the model, especially those on anti-money laundering/terrorist financing, regulations on electronic money and know-your-customer (KYC) processes.
CEO of TPBank Nguyễn Hưng said such regulations would need to go into detail to guide the establishment of agencies to provide banking services, such as regulations on approved and prohibited services, criteria to become authorised agencies and the form of operation.
Hưng mentioned two main forms of authorisation used in Brazil known as full authorisation and credit authorisation, adding a fully authorised agent will provide a full range of services from receiving and forwarding application documents for opening a payment account, savings account, deposit/withdrawal transaction, transfer, payment as well as loan applications and opening credit cards. Meanwhile, a credit agency will only provide services on payment, borrowing and credit.
Taking another example of Bangladesh, Hưng said authorised dealers can provide cash withdrawal/deposit services, support for small loan disbursement and debt collection/instalment, bill payment assistance, fund transfer assistance, balance queries, collect and forward applications for opening accounts, opening savings, loans and credit cards. However, they are not allowed to approve the decision to open card/loan accounts, conduct financial appraisals and conduct foreign currency transactions.
According to another financial expert, it is necessary to clarify the quality and capacity of organisations authorised to act as banking agents.
The agents must ensure that they meet all the standards of financial capacity, reputation, ability to meet commitments under adverse conditions, ability to provide financial services based on technology and capacity of internal control, security assurance and anti-money laundering. — VNS