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Digital transformation is playing an important role in reducing gaps in the banking system by narrowing down the risks and boosting business activities in the industry. Technology is of immense help to bank branches. It supports a bank's overall networking system and helps provide quality services at lower cost.

Due to the changes in the global financial environment and breakthrough caused by technological and telegraphic change in the banking industry, the State Bank of Pakistan(SBP) has taken yet an another good initiative by launching Roshan Digital Account (RDA) in partnership with major banks. Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) will now be able to remotely open an account in Pakistan. The existing partner banks are, Bank Al Falah Limited, Faysal Bank Limited, Habib Bank Limited, MCB Bank Limited, Meezan Bank Limited, Samba Bank Limited, Standard Chartered Bank Pakistan Limited and United Bank Limited.

RDA is an another door for potential dollar inflows in Pakistan, which is expected to encourage formal digital channel payments. The key purpose of the RDA is to attract investments in the Pakistan Stock Exchange(PSX) and Naya Pakistan Certificates (NPC) that offer various dollar-based and PKR-based returns.

Source : SBP
Source : SBP

In addition, RDA also plans to open up investment opportunities in the Pakistani property market as well. RDA will also encourage remittances routing through official channels and provide digital banking solutions such as funds transfer, bills and fee payments and other e-commerce activities.

The salient features of Roshan Digital Accounts are :

• A RDA can be opened in two working days

• Two types of accounts can be opened under RDA : Foreign Currency Value Account (FCVA), NRP Rupee Value Account (NRV)

• Customer can choose either or both of the types of the account mentioned above

• FCVA can be opened in all major currencies including US$, GBP, EUR, JPY, CAD, AED, SAR, CNY, CHF and TRY

• No filling of tax return required

• Funds can be remitted back from Pakistan without any approval from bank or SBP or can also be withdraw n in cash in Pakistan through ATM or cheque

• Only a 10% withholding tax on profits of NPC applicable, which would be the full and final tax

• Enabling investment in Pakistan's stock market through RDA

• Can invest in the Pakistani commercial and residential real estate through RDA very soon

• Shariah Compliant version of NPC to be available very soon

• Resident Pakistanis w ho have declared assets abroad with FBR can also invest in US$ NPCs by opening an RDA in foreign currency by visiting a bank branch in Pakistan

• Feeding from local sources will not be allowed

According to experts, the launching of Roshan Digital Accounts is a good initiative but the State Bank needs to advertise it properly. While speaking to Business Recorder, Maheen Rahman who is the Chief Executive of Alfalah GHP Investment Management said, “Roshan Digital Accounts is a great initiative by the Ministry of Finance and Government of Pakistan to allow NRPs easy and streamlined access to Pakistan’s banking system and capital markets opportunities. We expect volume through this channel to pick up slowly over time rather than be an initial deluge. Rates offered are attractive by international standards but NRPs will need to be educated and informed about this product and as confidence and understanding develops over time this could be a useful source of foreign exchange for the government. This should be opened up for all capital market products including mutual funds as a diversified asset class.”

General Feedback from NRPs :

The Governor State Bank, Dr Reza Baqir told while addressing a seminar that around a thousand Roshan Digital Accounts are being opened everyday. Business Recorder spoke to a few Non Resident Pakistanis who are in the process of opening a Roshan Digital Account. From their reviews, it’s evident that there is excitement amongst the NRPs regarding RDA however issues are being faced in the registration process as well and some NRPs have expressed their concerns about the safety and confidentiality of their data.

Khizar Quraishi who is an analyst at JP Morgan and is in the process of opening a RDA said, “ I am interested in the Roshan Digital Account services being provided to overseas Pakistanis. As an overseas Pakistani, one of the most important banking needs is for me to have a Pakistani bank account for the ease of transferring savings and using for quick allocation of remittance. The account services that were being offered required my presence in Pakistan to extract money from my account. I have attempted registering for the service but have not yet completed the registration process, so far the process is quite simple and straightforward. I haven’t encountered any issues as such, the form required quite detailed information which you can expect from Banking forms. I would highly suggest marketing this more to the overseas Pakistanis, the availability of these services makes it extremely attractive for us to invest in opportunities in Pakistan. The RDA is highly recommendable and it is a great opportunity to invest in a brighter future of our nation.”

An another NRP who is interested in the RDA said, “ I'm an expat living in Saudi Arabia and Roshan Digital Accounts is a great attraction indeed for all expats. Almost all the features are somehow already offered in different accounts but the biggest thing is the ability to invest in the stock market directly. Currently though we are Pakistanis but the formalities and the hurdles in the way of investing in PSX make it almost impossible for expats. I'd like to share my experience here. I'm trying to open a brokerage account to invest in PSX from last 4 months. First thing is that we have to go through the TREC holders and I'm surprised by the poor level of customer services they provide. I have contacted many brokerage houses in last 4 months, all companies have pathetic services, you keep running after them and I'm surprised the way they are doing business. As an expat you've to complete a number of forms, attach a lot of documents and to complete big formalities in order to open a brokerage and cdc account. The biggest issue is that you've to get everything attested by either embassy or Notary public. The Pakistan Embassy only attests a very limited number of documents for very specific reasons and for that you have to waste a number of working days which makes it almost out of question, notary public in Saudi Arabia usually don't attest Pakistani documents and if someone attest they charge such a high fee that even a profit in the next 5 years won’t be to recover the amount which you'll spend on the notary attestation of these documents. I have a lot of friends who have millions of dollars in extra cash which is just residing in the bank account because they don't have a suitable, convenient, easy and reliable way to invest it. If the Government succeeds in making RDA a reality and we'll get access to PSX and other investment products conveniently, it'll be a big thing. But still it's a long way to go to make it a reality, I called 3 banks and they don't have enough information on the product. I already opened RDA but it is not activated because the bank system has failed to deliver OTP to Saudi number and they asked for some more time. I'm very excited about RDA but need to see practically what it'll offer. ”

Irtaza Hassan who is an investment consultant shared his experience while opening an account and said, “ I am interested in the Naya Pakistan Certificates and general bill payment etc. The experience has been mixed. For the first few parts of the application it was really smooth and fast. However, it got worse as we moved on. I have experienced delays in account opening. While it was supposed to be opened within 2 working days, it took approximately 10 working days for a provisional account to be opened. My name was also misspelled on the provisional account details even though it was provided on 6 or 7 different documents for them to view. However, I do note that since the last couple of days the response from the bank has improved. I have a few suggestions in order to improve the registration process :

1- The forms they send to fill are quite annoying. It would be much much easier if they just had an online portal where you could submit your documents and enter your details.

2- The ebanc team contacts you at Pakistani working hours. Considering they are only there too deal with foreign customers might be better to adapt to the customers time zones. Just to add to this I received a call at 8 am to confirm my mothers name.

3- This might be specific to my bank but they don't have a contact number for you to call their roshan digital account team. So every time I called them to complain (I called them 4 times in total) they would only say that we have informed the ebanc team and they will get back. This is really frustrating especially if you are working because you take time out from your work to be able to call them and then you get this response without any indication of how long it will take.

4- In the form it mentioned that I will have to pay a yearly charge just to have a debit card. This seems ridiculous in this day and age. ”

The launching of the Roshan Digital Accounts is a very good initiative and the State Bank must ensure that this turns out to be a success. In order to resolve the issues that are being faced by the NPRs, State Bank needs to improve their communication strategy so that all the concerns are addressed.