The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has raised concerns about commercial banks jeopardising depositors’ funds by allowing unauthorised mobile phone applications to offer online banking services to clients.
The central bank issued a notification to regulated entities (REs) that provide digital banking services, warning about the use of unlicensed digital lending mobile applications and platforms.
These applications integrate with customers’ bank accounts for loan disbursement, creditworthiness checks, and collections, posing consumer protection risks and potential harm to banks’ reputation.
Regulated entities encompass commercial banks, microfinance banks (MFBs), payment system operators, payment service providers, and electronic money institutions (EMIs).
The central bank explicitly stated that REs should not provide services such as deposits, lending products, mobile application integration with third parties, payment gateway services, credit scoring and creditworthiness checks, wallet services, and/or API integration services to unlicensed digital lending platforms, whether directly or indirectly.
IT expert Noman Ahmad, speaking to The Express Tribune, emphasised the need for the central bank to disclose the names of financial institutions offering services through unlicensed applications. By doing so, depositors would have the opportunity to withdraw and safeguard their deposits before any unexpected events occur. He expressed surprise that unauthorised mobile platforms were offering banking services despite the SBP’s status as a responsible regulator.
Banks in Pakistan manage deposits totaling approximately Rs23 trillion and serve 67.52 million depositors in a population of 227 million. The country has 103 million branchless banking accounts, while EMIs oversee 1.60 million accounts (e-wallets).
The SBP’s notification advises REs to verify the licensing status and authorisation of digital lending platforms and mobile applications from relevant regulatory bodies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the central bank itself. This verification should be conducted as part of the know-your-client and customer due diligence processes.
Furthermore, REs are urged to implement reasonable measures during customer onboarding and transaction monitoring to prevent unauthorised financial service providers from utilising their banking channels and platforms, either directly or indirectly.