The number of agent banking accounts has almost doubled between January and September, thanks to the rising popularity of this new form of banking, and some banks giving higher priority to the service.
As of September 30 last, the number of agent banking accounts stood at 10,38242, whereas the figure was 5,444536 at the end of 2016, says an estimate of Bangladesh Bank (BB).
As many as 4,93706 new accounts were opened in the nine-month span.
Agent banking refers to limited scale banking and financial services for those living in remote areas across the country through engaged agents under a valid agency agreement, rather than a teller or cashier.
An agent is the owner of an outlet who conducts banking transactions such as fund deposit, withdrawal, transfer of funds, paying bills, inquiring about an account balance on behalf of a bank.
According to the BB data, the deposits in such accounts amounted to Tk922.08 crore at the end of September, while 2,015 agent banking outlets registered a Tk1240.34 crore remittance inflow over the same period.
Currently, 13 banks have been providing agent banking services.
The banks are: Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL), Bank Asia, Al-Arafah Islami Bank, Social Islami Bank Limited, Modhumoti Bank Ltd, Mutual Trust Bank Limited, NRB Commercial Bank, Standard Bank Ltd, Agrani Bank Ltd, Midland Bank, First Security Islami Bank, The City Bank and Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd.
Meanwhile, the Trust Bank, and South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank have secured licences from the central bank to operate agent banking. But they are yet to launch the service.
Though substantial progress has been made in the area of
agent banking in terms of the number of agents and account-holders, only two banks are leading the service.
The leading players are Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited and Bank Asia, which covered more than 86% agent banking accounts.
A total of 6,82,278 accounts were opened through DBBL and 2,37,278 accounts through Bank Asia.
BB Deputy Governor S K Sur Chowdhury in a recent programme said: “The agent banking activities are mostly centered around two to three banks, and other banks need to increase it on a priority basis.”
He also said the central bank was preparing a revised draft of the existing agent banking guideline, which will be finalised and approved very soon.
A research paper of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) titled “Agent Banking: Effectiveness in Financial Inclusion”, prepared by a five-member team and headed by BIBM Professor Dr Prashanta Kumar Banarjee, says product lending is still absent in the agent banking outlets.
“As per the central bank’s provisions, it is expected that the agents will provide the maximum number of services to the clients. Therefore, they should not limit themselves only to facilitating account access to customers or transferring money,” it adds.