Central bank introduces digital cheque clearing and unified QR code for payments to accelerate digitalization, promote financial inclusion
State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqir this week announced the introduction of digital cheque clearing and a unified QR code for payments as part of the central bank’s attempts to facilitate the introduction of digital financial products and services.
In a statement issued by the apex bank on Wednesday—following Aug. 2’s 5th Stakeholders meeting on digital financial services—it said that the State Bank was “actively exploring” developing ‘Open Banking’ to allow financial institutions to share and leverage information provided by customers to “facilitate consumer choice, promote competition and efficiency in the financial sector, and encourage the introduction of innovative products and services to benefit consumers.”
According to the statement, the new initiatives are aimed at accelerating digitalization and financial inclusion. “The digital cheque clearing initiative will replace physical presentation and clearing of cheques, thereby reducing the time involved substantially,” it said. “The introduction of a unified QR code will allow payments by users from any digital application, eliminating the need to use separate apps,” it said, adding that the central bank would continue to promote innovative digital financial services by resolving any issues that fell under its purview.
During the meeting, read the statement, Governor Baqir had appreciated the support of all stakeholders in facilitating the SBP’s digital initiatives, emphasizing the role played by the Federal Bureau of Revenue and NADRA. The forum was briefed on the progress thus far in resolving issues already identified by the banking sector, including the removal/reduction of taxes and duties by the FBR on import of Point of Sale machines; facilitation of remote account opening by NADRA; and a review of pricing mechanism for verification of mobile SIMs by telecom industry with the help of PTA.
“During the meeting,” it said, SBP and PTA announced the formation of a joint task force to combat digital financial services’ fraud. It said the central bank and FBR had also agreed to form a joint committee to collaborate on increasing digitization of the economy. “These and other initiatives have led to 30 and 20 percent growth in internet and mobile banking respectively in Q3, FY21 compared to the same period last year,” it said.
The governor also updated the meeting’s participants on the progress achieved by the Raast instant payment platform. He said the second phase of the person-to-person payment portal would be launched by October 2021, and banks were being integrated with Raast for this purpose.
Baqir launched the stakeholders meeting on digital financial services in October 2019 with an aim to bring together key players from both the public and private sectors to share information and coordinate the resolution of concerns that impede digitalization of financial services.