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Branchless banking draws closer with new software on shelves

By | February 1st 2010

By Luke Anami

A local information technology cfirm has developed Internet bank automation software designed for branchless banking.

Craft Silicon, which specialises in Banking Software and other financial software products, are the manufactures of the Bankers Realm (BR), a high-end Internet ready bank automation software designed for use by small to large sized banks and financial institutions.

Branchless banking, which represents an alternative to conventional branch-based banking, allows financial institutions to offer financial services outside traditional bank premises using channels like retail agents, computers or mobile phone.

Client accounts

"The Bankers Realm mini branch solution was developed to enable microfinance institutions manage their clients through use of effective and appropriate technology," said Kamal Budhabhatti.

BR is a ready product — with customer notifications sent either on e-mail or mobile — inbuilt in the system.

The system, which can also act as a base for other adds-on delivery channels like Internet banking, ATM and smartcards, is available on mobile phones.

The Bankers Realm technology helps customers to access their account details using a normal mobile phone. The product uses the SMS technology to send and receive information.

The BR technology encourages the use of branchless banking, which can be used to substantially increase the financial services outreach to the un-banked communities.

"Now you can receive banking services without going to the bank," Kamal said.

The technology has been developed targeting customers of microfinance institutions.

The Mama Mboga in the slums can now bank her money as little as Sh50 right from where she is selling her vegetables using the technology through an agent or credit officer of a microfinance institution nearby.

"Since the software uses standard SMS features, customers can access their account worldwide," Rakshit Bolar, Marketing Director of Craft Silicon said.

Bolar said a companion product referred to as RealmCE that adds utility to BR enables a credit officer or loans manager to perform transactions in the field. The system is also capable of printing the transaction receipt.

The phone is connected to the BR terminal. It, however, requires a client’s name, password and bank in order to function.

Customers who can’t write can use dual scan fingerprint for authentification.

"Before going to the field, the credit officer would load the information on his pal computer or mobile phone," Bolar said.

"These include information such as customer details, loans, savings and transactions."

The mobile phone of the credit officer is then loaded with the information that would empower him or her to process transactions in the field.

"This processed information can also be transmitted to update the live database using direct connection at the branch, normal telephone line or a GSM mobile connection," he explains.

The technology also manages the event processing messages. This means that system can push messages to the customer based on certain activities that happens in the customer account.

The system can push a message to the customer when there is a transaction of large amount in the account, or the customer can be notified when the currency rate changes.

"Mama Mboga can check her balance, confirm her transaction just like the ATMs," Bolar said.

User interface is one of the greatest assets of BR. Moreover BR is both a client/server based system and a windows compliant software, which can be operated under any platform including Windows or Linux.

The technology is already in use in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Malawi where there is no regulation.

Developing regulations

However, the modalities for operating branchless banking, which would use the new technology by micro-finance institutions, are still being developed by the Central Bank of Kenya.

This despite the fact that Safaricom’s M-Pesa and other mobile companies are already handling money transfers among a large mobile clientele.

CBK is developing shown a strong interest in branchless banking and have expressed their commitment to institute legal and regulatory changes that will support new technology-based products and services and enable increased outreach.

"CBK is in the process of developing regulations that will guide the branchless banking," Lydia Koros, the chairperson of the Association of Microfinance Institutions said.

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