KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan has asked commercial banks to deploy more automated teller machines (ATMs) as the currently available network of 9,000 machines is insufficient to match the growing demand.

“Density of ATMs is low in Pakistan and we need to increase it,” said SBP Deputy Governor Riaz Riazuddin while addressing the 13th International e-Banking Conference and Exhibition on Thursday.

The event was organised by Total Communications and 1Link.

“The SBP in collaboration with stakeholders has been striving to strengthen payment delivery channels through automation and digitalisation. Alternate payment delivery channels like e-banking and branchless banking have emerged as supporting pillars of SBP’s vision for financial inclusions. Creating digitally inclusive financial system will ensure reaching unserved population,” said the deputy governor.

He said the recently issued regulations related to payment system operators and payment service providers have paved the way for new entrances pertaining to electronic payment gateway, payment scheme, clearing house, ATM switch, point of sales gateway, e-commerce gateway and so on.

According to World Bank’s Naveed Ali Baig, there are 6.49 ATMs per 1,000 people in Pakistan as compared to 290 machines in South Korea, 173 in US, 42.4 in Indonesia, and 13.27 ATM in India.

Baig said banks have planned to deploy another 500-600 ATM machines during the current year.

Faisal Ejaz Khan, Chief Executive Officer at 1Link, said they would soon launch a mobile app – POS (point of sale) – that would enable debit cardholders to make payments through smart phones, which would work like debit machines.

“POS app would help swapping debit cards through smart phones…we are just waiting for approval from the regulator,” he said, adding that over seven million debit cards in Pakistan would automatically become POS cards.

He said 1Link would also launch the “Direct Debit” app in the next three months. This would enable banks to directly debit payments from bank accounts for accountholders utility bills, their monthly installments. The services would be activated on the request of accountholders.

Faiq Sadiq, Head Payment Services at Habib Bank Limited, said his bank has deployed 5,000 POS terminals nationwide. He said his bank has come at number one position in deploying ATM machines in the country.

He said innovation, technological advancement and disruption is the way forward in the financial sector. He said the Nadra database and 1Link have made possible to have biometric ATMS in the country.

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