The Financial Express

Corona brings chance for digitalisation  

| Updated: August 11, 2020 21:57:09

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Speakers at a dialogue on Monday said Covid-19 crisis puts unprecedented strains on markets, governments, businesses and individuals, but simultaneously it has brought opportunities for digitalisation.

Coronavirus could be one of the most serious challenges facing the financial services industry, they added.

To address the impacts, the speakers said financial institutions must craft a strategic response by adopting appropriate enablers and innovations underpinned by agile delivery models.

The pandemic can bring great opportunities for digital financial services (DFS) in the post-COVID world.

They suggested Bangladesh, which sees early successes in payments, move fast with facilitative regulations, risk management guidelines, digital infrastructure, effective data analytics and capacity-building.

These insights and recommendations came up at a resurgent dialogue on 'Digital Innovations in Financial Services: Key to Success in Post-COVID World'.

The dialogue was jointly hosted by Resurgent Bangladesh and Deloitte Bangladesh. Resurgent Bangladesh is an economic recovery initiative in the context of COVID put together by five institutions-MCCI, DCCI, CSE, BUILD and Policy Exchange.

Financial Institutions Division Senior secretary Md Ashadul Islam attended the meeting as the guest of honour.

The session was attended by a number of CEOs of banks and non-banking financial institutions, board members and senior officials of digital financial services, policy experts and development partners.

Dr Masrur Reaz, chairman of Policy Exchange, made welcome remarks where he stressed that COVID expedites a shift towards DFS that was already helping advance financial inclusion.

While Bangladesh has made a great stride in financial development, embracing digital finance in faster pace will help address recent challenges in banking sector and fast-paced financial inclusion, he highlighted.

Sharif Islam, executive adviser of Deloitte Bangladesh, spoke about Deloitte's commitment to partnering with government and banking institutions to strengthen financial services industry. The world's largest professional services firm is also keen to revitalise the country's economy for sustained high rate of growth in the years ahead, he added.

The keynote paper was presented by Sanjoy Dutta, financial services industry leader of Deloitte India, responsible for South Asia.

Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Group, provided the summary remarks.

The panel and open sessions were moderated by Barrister Nihad Kabir, president of MCCI and director of bKash.

Aftabul Islam, a member of the board of directors of Bangladesh Bank, said COVID-induced changes are real, and move towards DFS should take place without delay in the process. Ali Reza Iftekhar, chairman of Association of Bankers Bangladesh and managing director of Eastern Bank, said digital means will help reduce cost and enhance capacity to reach out to customers.

He called for acceptance of digitised submission of returns by banks to the central bank.

Shameran Abed, chairman of bKash, said bKash is already supporting transaction of 750,000 BRAC micro-finance clients.

He expects the number to double in the next one year. Syed Mohammad Kamal, country manager of Mastercard International, suggested incentives to encourage uptake in digital financial services.

Sonia Bashir Kabir, co-founder of DMoney, said both the new-generation young population, and cottage and micro industries can only be better served through enhancing technological usages in financial services.

Chittagong Stock Exchange chairman Asif Ibrahim stressed the need to put more focus on digitisation of capital market while pursuing DFS.

Mutual Trust Bank CEO Syed Mahbubur Rahman, NRB Bank CEO Mehmood Husain, AB Bank president Tarique Afzal, USAID's Economic Growth Office director John Smith-Sreen, BUILD chairman Abul Kasem Khan, DCCI president Shams Mahmud and Financial Institutions Division additional secretary Arijit Chowdhury joined the open discussion.

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