New forms of electronic and mobile phone banking recently introduced in the country can definitely boost and improve the basic services provided by rural savings clubs.
This was the message highlighted to participants during the four day savings club workshop co-hosted last week by the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) and the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP).
A panel consisting of the three commercial banks-Westpac, BSP, ANZ and the South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) told leaders of rural savings clubs who attended the workshop that improvement in the telecommunication network, especially in rural locations has improved access to their services.
The banks highlighted that their investments in electronic banking infrastructure and other banking services have increased and continues to reach out to the remote rural areas providing greater opportunities for people.
“Please know that we (banks) are coming to you”, said Mr Kutila Pinto, General Manager of Westpac Bank and a member of the panel discussion group.
Mr. Pinto explained that commercial banks are now reaching out to people in the rural areas and remote parts of the country, and local groups and institutions such as savings clubs can easily access these services.
He said that this is due to the improvement in telecommunication which today is bridging the gap of remoteness and distance faced by many communities around the country.
BSP’s retail manager, Ms Tupou Alofaki also informed the participants that BSP is already providing a number of products that can meet the different needs of rural savings clubs and individual members.
She stated that the current challenge for all commercial banks is to educate those in the rural areas to learn and know how to use these new forms of mobile and electronic banking services.
“We have to teach our people to have confidence, trust and assurance that our services and products are safe and secure. We do that by providing the necessary education and awareness to assist those [clients] in this area,” Alofaki highlighted.
ANZ also explained how their products and services that include their new mobile banking products can benefit savings clubs.
Saving clubs can become merchant agents for the ANZ goMoney service and provide banking to their members including the wider village communities.
ANZ said that being a merchant can allow Savings Clubs to provide banking services to their members and at the same time earn money for their clubs.
SPBD also took the opportunity to inform participants of its microfinance services which includes amongst others, their assistance to their respective clients in opening savings accounts.
Forty participants from rural savings clubs representing all the provinces and urban savings clubs attended the workshop which ended on Thursday 27 February.
The workshop was jointly funded by the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, and Central Bank of Solomon Islands.