How HBL’s digital payment solutions are expanding financial inclusion

Pakistan's very first commercial bank is helping grow the country's financial inclusion rate from just 21 percent

March 9, 2021

Bank digitisation is a worldwide trend; but its benefits are particularly notable in countries with a large unbanked population. Pakistan is one such country, where HBL is at the forefront of its digital banking drive. Sagheer Mufti explains how the bank has transformed from a legacy bank to a digital one: leveraging technology to help digitise the flow of money across individuals, institutions, and businesses.

World Finance: Sagheer, HBL was the very first commercial bank established in Pakistan – how has it transformed from a legacy bank, to a digital one?

Sagheer Mufti: Thank you for the question, because we’re very proud of our legacy. HBL, since inception, has a history of innovation in customer service.

For example, early on we decided to create a branch network so we can be wherever our clients are, including an international footprint. We brought credit cards and ATMs to the Pakistan market 50 years ago. And as the digital landscape started evolving in financial services, we have embraced it fully – to the extent that we view HBL today as a technology company with a banking licence.

The end goal remains the same: be a customer-centric organisation, by having mobile-first channels, data-enabled decisioning, and an agile organisation to increase speed-to-market. Our success today in achieving pole position in digital is based on enabling our clients to enjoy banking services and channels that fit in with today’s lifestyle – be able to get information you need about your transactions, your wealth, or be able to transact when you want, from where you want, in a secure manner.

World Finance: A core component to this transformation is your digital payment capacity; tell me more about HBL Pay.

Sagheer Mufti: Absolutely! HBL digital payment solutions enable HBL customers to enjoy a cashless ability to transact with ease. Big data is enabling us to do lead generation, product personalisation, and react much faster to client feedback on our products and services.

The bank’s ability to maintain a leadership position in HBL pay, its cash management proposition, is about a one-stop online banking solution for all of HBL’s customers.

HBL Pay’s new payment gateway continues to power more and more ecommerce merchants. Being one of the first banks to offer open banking capabilities since last year has allowed us to on-board customers and partners quickly and remotely. Allowing them from the safety of their offices or homes to join HBL’s payment systems.

World Finance: Now, Pakistan has the fifth largest population in the world, but a financial inclusion rate of just 21 percent; is digitisation helping?

Sagheer Mufti: Oh, absolutely. Financial inclusion is at the core of HBL’s business philosophy, as it supports Pakistan’s national agenda, and allows us to better serve the communities that we do business in.

The bank believes that leveraging technology to digitise the flow of money across individuals, institutions, and businesses, is a necessary step; and greatly assists in achieving its financial inclusion agenda. We are seeing this happen every day.

A very good example was by HBL becoming a lead partner with the government of Pakistan in the disbursement of the largest social safety net initiative in the country’s history – and in fact, in south Asia – with $1bn during COVID-19 being disbursed to 12 million Pakistani families.