Pakistani official praises innovation as UAE-based bank opens country’s first ‘digital lifestyle branch’

ISLAMABAD: The top central bank official in Pakistan has praised the country’s financial sector for making technological upgrades after a private commercial bank inaugurated its first “digital lifestyle branch” in the southern Karachi port city to improve the overall customer experience and reduce the brick-and-mortar footprint earlier this week.

Launched by Bank Alfalah, a Pakistani subsidiary of a company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the initiative seeks to provide a unique digital experience and meet the lifestyle and financial needs of customers.

According to the bank, the state-of-the-art branch will offer a 24/7 digital self-service banking area comprising a virtual self-service machine (VSM), biometrically secured digital lockers, cash-deposit machines (CDMs), auto-teller machines (ATMs), and tech-gadget machines along with round-the-clock Wi-Fi access, among other facilities.

The branch was launched in Karachi by Pakistan’s top central bank official on June 1.

“Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Mr. Jameel Ahmad has said that Pakistan’s banking industry was investing in technological upgrades to facilitate its customers and improve their overall banking experience,” said a statement circulated by the bank.

“He was optimistic that exciting projects like Bank Alfalah’s first digital lifestyle branch will unlock new opportunities, making banking easier to access and leading to a more financially inclusive and digitally empowered nation.”

According to the statement, Ahmad said that digitalization would entail a reduction in the brick-and-mortar footprint of the banking industry globally, adding that Pakistan was no exception.

“The governor of SBP was confident that the successful implementation of this model will show the way forward to the new entrants of the banking industry in Pakistan. In his concluding remarks, he stressed the need for a proactive approach by the banking industry in tailoring customers’ products and services based on their specific preferences and changing behavior,” it added.

The top SBP official further maintained that customers’ fair treatment and protection should be a top priority of banks.

The virtual self-service machine will allow customers to instantly open accounts, receive debit cards swiftly, and get statements printed by a video teller immediately after a transaction, the bank said.

The facility will also provide “easy-to-use and biometrically secured digital lockers” which will be accessible to customers at any time of the day or night without any staff interaction.

Bank Alfalah witnessed an exponential growth of over 95 percent in digital banking transactions with an annualized volume of over Rs3.5 trillion. The bank’s record further reveals that 77 percent of new-to-bank (NTB) account holders prefer digital transactions over conventional methods.

Over 75 percent of the bank’s transactions are now online, and 70 percent of bank accounts are opened via digital channels.

Image: Arab News (Courtesy: Facebook/ Bank Alfalah)

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