Bankers gung-ho about mobile banking: Survey

A recent survey of 13 public sector banks, seven private sector lenders and four foreign-origin banks by the Boston Consultancy Group for the Indian Banks Association found overwhelming support for the concept of mobile banking.

As much as 57 per cent of the respondents from the public sector banking space expressed their "high optimism" about the efficacy of mobile banking, while 43 per cent were "optimistic" about it.

None of the PSB respondents was pessimistic about the potential of mobile phones to take financial services to the 55 per cent unbanked population of the country.

Among private and foreign lenders, 55 per cent are "very likely" to adopt this tool to reach out to far-flung areas, with 45 per cent of them saying that they are "likely" to do so. Significantly here again, no banker was doubtful about the efficacy of this tool.
However, very few of these bankers are confident of making profits from the financial inclusion project, according to the survey.

The FY'11 Budget had proposed to bring the 60,000 villages in the country with a population of 2,000 and above under the ambit of banking and financial services by March, 2012. Since then, the government and the RBI have been pushing bankers to work towards this objective.

"To reach the benefits of banking services to the 'Aam Aadmi', the Reserve Bank had set up a high-level committee on the lead bank scheme. After careful assessment of the recommendations of this committee and in further consultation with the RBI, it has been decided to provide appropriate banking facilities to habitations having a population in excess of 2000 by March, 2012," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said in his FY'11 Budget speech.

"It is also proposed to extend insurance and other services to the targeted beneficiaries. These services will be provided using the business correspondent and other models with appropriate technology back-up. Through this arrangement, it is proposed to cover 60,000 habitations," he said.

As mobile penetration has been rising rapidly, telcos have been demanding that the RBI allow them to introduce mobile banking.

Following this, in October, 2008, the RBI had issued the final mobile banking guidelines and capped daily fund transfer at Rs 5,000 and purchases at Rs 10,000.
But even after this, the RBI desisted from issuing licences to telcos as it was apprehensive of them being misused by nefarious elements. Furthermore, it wanted the mobile banking initiative to be driven by banks and not telcos.

Even this July, Reserve Bank Governor D Subbarao had said, "The RBI has a clear preference for the bank-led model, given the growing concerns about money laundering and financing of terrorism, a bank-led model is decidedly safer and more sustainable than one being pushed by telcos."

He, however, had admitted that a mobile operator-led model helps accelerate financial inclusion.

However, on September 15 this year, Bharti Airtel was issued a licence to launch mobile banking services by the RBI, but without cash withdrawal or redemption facilities.

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