The operations of commercial banks are seeing continuous expansion throughout the country as their Automated Teller Machines (ATM) network increased to 9,018 by the end of December 2014 for meeting increased cash transaction demand of customers.
State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) statistics said that ATMs are the most used means in the electronic channel of banking sector, which constitutes 64.3 percent share in the overall e-banking sector in Pakistan. It is because of the rise in demand with increasing awareness of advantages of self-banking.
The cost of an ATM has gone down to $7000 from $40,000 in the last three years
The decreasing cost of the ATMs has also pushed banks to enhance their networks in order to provide services to their customers and make margins. The ATMs cost reduced drastically to $7,000 from $40,000 per unit compared to three years ago. However, the operating costs of ATMs are quite high in Pakistan as 24/7 services are required due to unstable electricity and internet.
There are advanced ATMs being deployed by the banks, which have features like cardless transactions (through biometric or thumb prints identifications). In Pakistan, banks are increasingly working on the deployment of energy-efficient and solar-powered ATMs as well.
Sadly, the maintenance standards of various commercial banks are poor as large number of ATMs are reported to be out-of-services or out-of-cash even in the commercial hubs of major cities.
Plastic Cards Increase to 26 Million in Pakistan
The use of plastic money is growing in Pakistan at a steady pace. There have been a total of 26 million plastic cards issued by various banks to their customers. There are over 23.7 million debit cards with 0.9 million being ATM only cards and 1.3 million being credit cards.
The number of debit and ATMs cards has increased after the introduction of plastic money by microfinance banks owned by different cellular operators. Besides, beneficiaries of various schemes such as Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) and IDPs were also provided ATMs cards to withdraw money on their own and that has bumped up numbers too.
The technological shift in Pakistan is encouraging as use of internet and mobile banking is seeing an increase by customers, which is good sign for banking industry.
According to SBP figures, bank customers using Internet Banking, Mobile Banking and Call Centre have reached 18.62 million by 2014-end.
Internet and Mobile Banking are the most feasible means for customers since they provide the ease of access and use anytime and anywhere. They also save banks significant labor costs and various banks have already introduced mobile apps for their customers.
The high internet 3G/4G services will promote mobile banking trend in Pakistan however there is a need to create awareness and give protection to customers from hacking and different fraudulent activities.