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KARACHI: The digital banks recently licensed by the State Bank of Pakistan to operate in the country have promised greater financial inclusion among the un-banked masses and investment in technology and customer services to help the financial sector grow.

Chief executives of three digital banks including Mashreq Bank, Raqami and Easypaisa DB shared similar future plans during the 4th Digital Banking and Payments Summit and Expo (DigiBAP2023) organised by TerraBiz in Karachi on Wednesday.

The Chief Guest at the inaugural session was Dr Ishrat Hussain, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan, while other prominent speakers and panellists during the daylong conference included Shazad Dada, President UBL; Irfan Lodhi, Chief Executive Mashreq Bank; Sohail Javaad, Executive Director State Bank of Pakistan; and Mudassar Aqil, Chief Executive Easyaisa DB, as well as, many others from across the country.

A number of international financial experts like Evans Munyuki, celebrated author and former Group CDO Emirates DB; Fernando Morillo, Global Head of Retail Mashreq Bank; Faran Niaz, banking customer services expert; Alexandra Topalian and others travelled especially to Pakistan for the conference.

During his address, Dr Ishrat Hussain said that financial reforms are an ongoing process. The State Bank had encouraged new initiatives over the years like Islamic Banking, Microfinance Banking to empower women and provide financial services to traditionally unserved sections of the society from agri and SME financial services. Digital Banks are the future and have the means and opportunity to promote financial inclusion and make inroads where conventional banks cannot reach, he said.

Commenting on the state of banking in the country, speakers were of the opinion that it is not easy making the behavioural change to transition from a cash economy to a digital economy.

Nadeem Hussain of Raqami said that people don't save in banks because the returns don't offset the inflation.

Chief Executive of Mashreq Bank Pakistan, Irfan Lodhi said that Mashreq Bank had entered the Pakistan market with long-term vision and plans of achieving greater market credibility penetration and financial inclusion. He was of the opinion that new entrants to the financial sector should focus on making a place in the market by providing unfulfilled services rather than looking at immediate profits.

President and Chief Executive UBL, Shazad Dada was of the opinion that the big challenge is the cultural change in the organization. He said that his organization was moving forward on the basis of design thinking and data analytics to enter the future of banking with increased services to customers.

CEO Terrabiz, Hamza Hashmi in his opening address welcomed all speakers and partners for the event. The event also included an expo of more than 10 banks, financial service providers, technology solution providers, etc., who displayed their innovative solutions for the banking and financial sector.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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