Virtual Banking: Pakistan Issues In-Principle Approvals to Digital Banks, as Nation’s Fintech Sector Expands

In order to support innovation, financial inclusion as well as the emerging digital financial services ecosystem, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has reportedly issued In-Principle Approvals for launching five digital retail-focused banking platforms.

Pakistan’s newly approved online banks reportedly include HugoBank, KT Bank Pakistan Ltd, Mashreq Bank Pakistan Ltd, Raqami Islamic Digital Bank Ltd and Telenor Microfinance Bank Limited.

SBP had issued NoCs or no-objection ceritificates to five different applicants for launching virtual banks across Pakistan back in January of this year.

Following the completion of the relevant guidelines and requirements, these online banking services providers have now been issued in-principle approval in order to provide compliant digital financial services across the Asian country.

Governor of SBP, Jameel Ahmad issued the IPAs to the five virtual banks during a key event held recently in Karachi, which remains Pakistan’s largest metropolitan city and economic hub.

As part of his address, the Governor of SBP, Pakistan’s central bank, said that the significance of these newly-introduced banks should be evident.

Ahmad also noted that there were several regulatory developments that would streamline the country’s financial services sector. He confirmed that the SBP remains focused on extending support to stakeholders for a stable banking sector in Pakistan.

In addition to these developments, it has been reported that Pakistan might be working on its own digital currency, which could help ease the pressure the nation is facing from unprecedented levels of inflation and the constant depreciation of the Pak Rupee.

Although these efforts are commendable, Pakistan still has major problems to deal with. For instance, the World Bank recently revealed that nearly 40% of the country’s residents are now living below the poverty line. Moreover, Pakistan’s human development index (HDI) has declined considerably over the past decade.

Many people are unable to find well-paying jobs, due to lack of economic development. Along with joblessness, there are hardly any resources (financial or otherwise) allocated towards education and other vital services. And after the questionable arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country is now being led by a caretaker government before new elections are held.

But some good news has also come after all this turmoil. The Fintech sector in Pakistan is growing rapidly and the Pak Rupee has stabilized against the dollar (to a significant extent) after the shutdown of many private exchange firms that may have been operating in a non-compliant manner.

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