KUALA LUMPUR : BANK Simpanan Nasional's (BSN) mandated role as a community bank reaching out to rural areas through its banking agent model has not only benefited the bank financially but also its agents. The bank head of community business and senior vice-president Azaddin Ngah Tasir said when the banking agent model was launched in 2012, it was purely to meet the bank's role as mandated by the government, but in just two years, the return on investment has been too good to stop at just having 2,000 agents. "In the last two years, we have conducted a total of 13.5 million transactions valued at RM1.1 billion through our banking agents. Those who mostly operate from their mini-market shops now have an additional income of about RM2,000 in commission," he said recently. BSN has now increased its banking agents to over 5,000, and this year, it plans to add another 2,500 and two-thirds of the new agents will be its microfinance customers, Azaddin said. Currently, only between five and 10 per cent of its banking agents are customers to the bank's microfinance offering. "All these started as a national agenda from our mandated role and in line with Bank Negara Malaysia's financial blueprint of promoting financial inclusion," he said, adding that other banks like Maybank and RHB Bank are also doing their part, but through post offices and not as active as BSN. Azaddin said the cost of setting up banking agents is much cheaper than opening up new branches. "We equipped the retail shops with pos terminals which cost about RM4,000 to RM5,000 and ensure that their shops are in the areas with General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) signal. We then briefly train the shop owners on how to use the terminals, and almost immediately services can be rendered to the public." Banking services provided by the banking agents include deposit acceptance, cash withdrawals, purchase of BSN's Premium Savings Certificates, bill payments and pre-paid top-ups. Currently, 70 per cent of the transactions with the banking agents are bill payments and BSN foresees this will continue to grow and it wants to leverage this demand by introducing more related services. "Deposits and withdrawal transactions are all conducted in real-time and secured as the banking agents will validate the customers' MyKad prior to making their transactions," he said. Azaddin said those in rural areas benefited a lot from such facilities as they do not have to go to the nearest town just to withdraw money or pay bills ... and with the shops operating from 8am to 10pm daily, banking has been made easy for them. He said for providing such convenience, BSN last year won a green technology award from the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry . "Our services mean there is less emission of gases from moving cars, we operate almost paperless and we don't pollute the air with the construction of new physical branches," he said.
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