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KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has announced to implement Pakistan’s Instant Payment System “Raast” to offer instant, reliable and free Person-to-Person (P2P) payment services with the objective of promoting digital financial services and financial inclusion.

Raast will enable instant P2P fund transfers and settlement. Customers would be able to send and receive funds using either their International Bank Account Number (IBAN) or their Raast ID. Initially customers would be able to use their registered mobile numbers as their Raast ID and link it to any of their bank account for conveniently receiving funds.

The first phase of the system, “Raast - Bulk Payments”, was launched on 11th January 2021 and is live since then. Under the second phase, the State Bank on Thursday issued instructions that will enable P2P fund transfers in the country through Raast, Pakistan’s Instant Payment System developed by the State Bank.

Raast is an Urdu word which means correct and direct. This service will offer an instant, reliable and zero-cost digital payment system to the people of Pakistan. SBP believes that the launch of Raast P2P service will not only provide a convenient and hassle-free digital fund transfer service to customers but will also provide an efficient and enabling payments infrastructure that would pave the way for digitization of the economy and promotion of digital financial services in the country.

Under Raast P2P fund transfers and settlement services, bank customers would be able to send and receive funds in their accounts using their bank’s mobile application, internet banking or over the counter services.

PM launches Pakistan's first instant Digital Payment System 'Raast'

For customers’ facilitation, they can set their registered mobile phone number as their Raast ID and link it to their preferred International Bank Account Number (IBAN) using the bank’s mobile application, internet banking, or visiting their bank branch. Once a customer has set her/ his mobile phone number as the Raast ID, others can send money to her/ him using her/ his mobile phone number without the need to know the account number or any other details. Bank customers can still use Raast service for sending or receiving funds using their IBANs even if they do not have a Raast ID or prefer to use their IBAN.

SBP has directed all banks to make Raast Person-to-Person fund transfer service available on at least three customer channels including mobile application, internet banking and branch counters. The list of banks that have completed the necessary technological upgrades and other needed preparations and are offering Raast P2P services to their account holders as of today is given below.

Currently, Standard Chartered Bank, Allied Bank, Askari Bank, Bank Alfalah, Habib Bank, Khushhali MFB, United Bank, Faysal Bank Limited, JS Bank, NRSP, Summit Bank, Telenor MFB, Meezan Bank, Bank Al Habib, Habib Metro Bank, Bank of Punjab and Soneri Bank are providing Raast P2P services.

While, Bank of Khyber, MCB Bank, HBL Microfinance Bank, Samba Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank will soon be offering Raast P2P services.

More banks will start offering Raast P2P services after completing their needed technological upgrades and other preparations. The up-to-date version of the above table will remain available at the SBP’s landing page for Raast and will show the progress of remaining banks to integrate with Raast. SBP has directed banks to ensure that funds successfully transferred through Raast should be credited into the recipients’ accounts within 20 seconds of receiving the credit advice from Raast system. In order to promote the use of digital financial services in the country, banks have been advised not to levy any charges on Raast related services and all transactions conducted through Raast would be free for end customers.

To facilitate banks in this regard, SBP will also offer free of cost Raast services to banks.

Further, to facilitate their customers, banks shall not assign minimum transaction size. In general, banks shall allow maximum transaction limits of PKR 200,000 per transaction or higher depending on the bank’s assessment of the risk profile of the customer. For particular account types where the SBP has prescribed limits from time to time, the maximum transaction limit could be lower than PKR 200,000 per transaction. SBP has advised banks to provide a smooth, convenient and hassle-free user experience to their customers using Raast.

Banks are required to ensure continuous and uninterrupted availability of all channels on which Raast services are being offered. For this purpose, banks shall strengthen their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with their vendors and service providers. Banks have also been advised to ensure availability of fully equipped 24/7 Network Operations Centre (NOC), Security Operations Centre (SOC) and call centre /helpdesk fully equipped with agents who are well versed with Raast functionality, and an effective customer complaints and disputes resolution mechanism for timely resolution of customer issues.

Banks have also been advised to take all measures to encourage their customers to use Raast services and facilitate them in its usage. In this regard, they shall ensure that customer awareness messages are broadcasted through SMS, emails and digital/social media platforms. The enabling instructions for Raast’s person-to-person transfers have been issued to all banks, Electronic Money institutions, Payment System Operators (PSOs) and Payment System Providers (PSPs) and mark the second phase of the rollout of the instant payment system.

Raast is being developed in collaboration with Karandaaz Pakistan and introduced in phases. The first phase of Raast, Bulk Payments, was launched by the Prime Minister in January 2021.

With the launch of Raast, Pakistan joined a select club of countries who have either launched or are in the process of launching Instant Payment Systems. Raast is fully owned and operated by State Bank of Pakistan.

SBP has provided an explanatory video on YouTube and SBP’s website that explains to the public in simple terms how to make payments and transfer funds using Raast.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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