Branchless banking points are being expanded in North Eastern states by Fino Payments Bank in a bid to expand facilities in remote corners, particularly in difficult terrains of the region, officials said.
The bank started operations in June 2017 following RBI's license to promote digital payments and enable financial inclusion, providing banking services in unbanked and under-banked locations through a branchless network of tech-enabled points, the Bank's Chief Sales Officer Shailesh Pandey told PTI.
''This is a digital bank for the masses and is a cost effective approach as against the expensive branch network that traditional banks have", he said.
In the North East, the bank has close to 12,000 own banking points with Assam having the highest of 10,600, followed by 642 in Tripura, 190 in Manipur, 120 in Meghalaya, 44 in Arunachal Pradesh, 36 in Mizoram and 34 in Nagaland.
Collectively, the bank plans to add another 5,000 points across all the North Eastern states by March 2023 while Pan India aims to double its network to over two million points in 36 months, Pandey said.
The 'PHYGITAL' network, a mix of physical outlets and digital platforms, comprises small business owners or merchants such as grocery shops, mobile repair, photocopy, stationery shop and others that are present in the neighbourhood with the small merchants becoming local bankers, he said.
Outlets of Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) is a strategic partner of Fino banking points and these are provided with Micro ATM and Aadhaar enabled payment services (AePS) devices that allow the merchant to facilitate banking transactions.
The bank had a network of over 1.14 million points by the end of the financial year 2022, comprising more than half a million own merchant points and another over half a million points representing 55 open banking partners.
The bank is adding over 1,000 new points daily across the country and intends to continue the momentum to improve banking access for the benefit of masses, he added.
"Branchless banking is the way forward to improve banking access, especially in rural and difficult terrains. In line with this strategy, we have ventured into the NE states, West Bengal and Odisha where we have our own network of around 50,000 banking points and intend to penetrate deeper into these geographies to reach out to more customers", Pandey said.
Due to lack of proper banking infrastructure in NE states, Fino's neighbourhood points offer customers the facility to avail digital banking services, the bank's NE Senior Divisional Head Atul Trivedi said.
Most importantly, the merchant being trained in handling digital devices helps the not so tech savvy customers complete banking transactions, he said.
At Fino points, customers of any bank can transact, open a new bank account, deposit, withdraw and transfer money while also accessing third party products such as life, health and motor insurance, referral loans, and pay utility bills without visiting a bank branch, Trivedi said.
The advantage of these banking points is that people can visit at their convenience without worrying about closing hours, cash is always available unlike conventional ATMs that run dry while the merchant is familiar, friendly and always helpful that removes a lot of banking related barriers.
Additionally, for merchants it is a good avenue to earn extra income and goodwill of the customers, he added. Besides, Fino is a registered bank for government's public financial management systems (PFMS) schemes under which various welfare payments are made to beneficiaries such as students, old people and farmers who are also customers as well as account holders, Trivedi said.Further, any bank's customer can visit and transact at Fino point either using debit card and PIN mechanism or through Aadhaar fingerprint authentication, he said.