Suva, Fiji – About 66,000 people, including many rural women and youth could potentially benefit from a new financial service launched by HFC Bank today.
HFC Bank, Fiji’s only locally owned bank is the latest commercial bank to announce the launch of agency banking in Fiji, allowing customers to carry out transactions via their mobile phones anywhere (and anytime) and through the Vodafone M-PAiSA agent network.
The Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme provided a grant to assist HFC Bank develop its technology platform and integrate with Vodafone’s M-PAiSA mobile wallet to provide agency and mobile banking service.
This offering will allow customers to carry out transactions either via Vodafone Fiji’s mobile network, or through Vodafone’s point of service (POS) machines available in more than 1,000 outlets around Fiji through an extensive agent network (non-bank retail outlets offering banking and payment services).
“The services will include withdrawals, deposits, funds transfer, payments and point of sale purchases. In addition, the agency platform will be used for account opening and lodging of loan applications, a standout feature different from other agency banking models,” said HFC Bank Chairman Tom Ricketts.
“It is always about our customers! We understand customers greatly value convenient banking to suit their lifestyle. Hence, it is imperative that HFC Bank align and tailor our financial solutions offering and services to match the lifestyle and needs of our customers” said Mr. Ricketts.
“Customers will be able to easily open and maintain a bank account from their neighbourhood convenience stores who are Vodafone retail outlets, reducing the need to travel to cities and towns to access financial services” Mr. Ricketts further added.
In launching the new financial service, the Executive Secretary of United Nations Capital Development Fund Judith Karl said that agency banking is a potential game-changer for financial inclusion in Fiji.
“Most exciting of all is the potential that agency banking offers to include remote, rural, and often low income, communities in formal financial services through mobile phones. This is made possible by the extensiveness of Vodafone’s established network and M-PAiSA mobile platform,” she said.
“A significant portion of Fiji’s rural and maritime population remain under-served by financial services, with a 2015 nationally representative Demand Side Survey finding that more than half of rural adults do not have bank accounts, compared with just one-quarter of urban adults,” she added.
Mr. Pradeep Lal, CEO of Vodafone Fiji, speaking during the event said that digital financial services using mobile technology are fast becoming the norm around the world.
“The reach and accessibility offered through mobile phones can be leveraged for greater financial inclusion like never before,” he said. “We are indeed very delighted as the 100% locally owned mobile network operator to partner Fiji’s only 100% locally owned bank to offer mobile banking services and a wider footprint for HFC Banking outlets through our M-PAiSA agency network.”
“This partnership paves the way for “on the go” financial services 24 hours /7 days a week for greater financial inclusion,” said Lal.
This service is expected to be fully operational from July this year.
PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme helping low-income households gain access to financial services and financial education. It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.
PFIP projects have reached over 1.5 million Pacific Islanders with formal financial services. PFIP projects support policy and regulatory initiatives, provide funding for innovation with financial services and delivery channels, disseminate market information, and empower consumers.
PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands.
About HFC Bank
HFC Bank is a duly incorporated locally owned bank offering Retail and Commercial Banking and Lending products in Fiji. HFC Bank commenced Retail Banking in March 2014 and since has managed to open over 31,000 retail customer accounts which currently make use of electronic, internet and branch banking channels.