SBP Unveils Asaan Digital Accounts for Financial Inclusion of Women

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday unveiled the Asaan Digital Account (ADA) during the event ‘Asaan Digital Account: Breaking Barriers’ in Karachi.

The event was held in collaboration with Bank Alfalah, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), and United Bank Limited (UBL) to celebrate the journey of women’s financial inclusion in Pakistan. Governor SBP, Dr. Reza Baqir, graced the event as chief guest.

Dr. Baqir expressed confidence that the Asaan Digital Account will break barriers in the financial inclusion of women by offering faster, cheaper, efficient, and convenient solutions for meeting their requirements. The Asaan Digital Account is a fully digitized solution for the opening of a full-service bank account from anywhere at any time, through smartphones or computers, with only a CNIC and no other documentation requirements.

Dr. Baqir lauded women’s contributions in various fields and stressed that women’s empowerment is the key to Pakistan’s socio-economic development. He said that the gender gaps bars women from availing themselves of opportunities, rights, and obligations in all walks of life as compared to men. However, International Women’s Day encourages pausing and reflecting on the systemic barriers that limit women in their pursuits, he said. Dr. Baqir also stressed the need to reflect and renew the sense of ambition and transformative possibility around gender equality in the financial services space.

The SBP Governor pointed out that women’s participation in financial services has traditionally remained low due to persistent barriers such as cumbersome documentation requirements, proximity to the bank branches, and availability of suitable products, which, along with the constraining social and cultural norms, have prevented women from availing of even the basic financial services such as owning a bank account.

He added that the SBP is breaking these barriers and addressing women’s financial inclusion through various initiatives such as Banking on Equality Policy, Raast (Pakistan’s first instant payment system), a comprehensive ‘Customers’ Digital Onboarding Framework’ to facilitate the convenient opening of bank accounts, and Asaan Mobile Account, where anyone with a simple feature phone can open and use an account by dialing *2262#.

The central bank has also launched various financing schemes such as SBP Refinance and Credit Guarantee Scheme for Women Entrepreneurs, SME Asaan Finance or the SAAF Initiative, and the Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, etc., and a countrywide National Financial Literacy Program, which is imparting essential financial education to the masses.

Dr. Baqir highlighted that these initiatives are already bridging the gender gap in the financial sector and services but stressed that more needs to be done. He encouraged women to open their bank accounts through the newly introduced Asaan Digital Account and urged all the banks to simplify the account opening process, increase the value proposition for women, and market the features to expand their outreach.

Group Head Bank Alfalah, Mehreen Ahmed, mentioned that Bank Alfalah has been helping women across many segments of the economy to become financially independent for a number of years now. She explained that the bank has been enabling female entrepreneurs with initial funding to start their new ventures and provides funding for growing their already-established businesses.

CEO Standard Chartered Bank, Rehan Shaikh, remarked that women are an integral constituent of society and their full and equal participation in all facets of society is a fundamental human right. He lauded the SBP for playing a leading role in creating an environment to push the frontiers in this space. Shaikh also stated that the banking industry is embracing digital transformation with continued focus and the support of the SBP.

President and CEO United Bank Limited (UBL), Shazad Dada, congratulated the SBP for the Asaan Digital Account initiative and attributed its resounding success to its simplicity and accessibility to customers from all over Pakistan, including unbanked regions. He observed that the account is ideal for the women of Pakistan as it can be opened from anywhere, and there is no need to visit a branch to open or maintain the account.

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The event was attended by the heads of financial institutions, influential women leaders, and prominent figures from various walks of life. SCB, UBL, and Bank Alfalah had set up stalls where the audience experienced live account opening of Asaan Digital Accounts.