The Early Experience with Branchless Banking

01 April 2008

Branchless banking has great potential to extend the distribution of financial services to poor people who are not reached by traditional bank branch networks; it lowers the cost of delivery, including costs both to banks of building and maintaining a delivery channel and to customers of accessing services (e.g., travel or queuing times).

In Brazil, customers open bank accounts, make deposits, and pay bills at lottery houses and small retail outlets. In the Philippines, urban migrants send money to their families in rural areas using mobile phones. Both of these cases can be described as branchless banking. Branchless banking entails substantially all of the following elements:

• Use of technology, such as payment cards or mobile phones, to identify customers and record transactions electronically and, in some cases, to allow customers to initiate transactions remotely

• Use of (exclusive or nonexclusive) third-party outlets, such as post offices and small retailers, that act as agents for financial services providers and that enable customers to perform functions that require their physical presence, such as cash handling and customer due diligence for account opening

• Offer of at least basic cash deposit and withdrawal in addition to transactional or payment services

• Backing of a government-recognized, deposit-taking institution, such as a formally licensed bank

• Structuring of the above so that customers can use these banking services on a regular basis (available during normal business hours) and without needing to go to bank branches at all, if that’s what they choose