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Executive Summary
Agent Banking provides banking and financial services to the underserved population through engaged agents under a valid agency agreement, rather than a teller/ cashier. Agent is the owner of an outlet who conducts banking transactions on behalf of a bank. Globally these retailers are increasingly utilized as important distribution channels for financial inclusion. Bangladesh Bank has also decided to promote this complimentary channel to reach to the poor segment of the society as well as existing bank customer especially to geographically dispersed locations with a range of financial services.

Bank Asia started pilot phase of Agent Banking upon approval of Bangladesh Bank in Munshiganj District. Ten agents are already providing services and few others are on process to start services in Munshiganj district under this pilot phase.

The agent banking model is one in which banks provide financial services through nonbank agents, such as educated individuals, chain grocery stores, retail outlets, post offices, pharmacies or NGOs. This model allows banks to expand services into areas where they do not have sufficient incentive or capacity to establish a formal branch, which is particularly true in rural and poor areas where as a result a high percentage of people are unbanked.

Agent banking is quickly becoming recognized as a viable strategy in many countries for extending formal financial services into poor and rural areas. In recent years, agent banking has been adopted and implemented with varying degrees of success by a number of developing countries. Brazil is often recognized as a global pioneer in this area since it was an early adopter of the model and over the years has developed a mature network of agent banks covering more than 99% of the country’s municipalities. Other countries have followed suit, including Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Pakistan, Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and India.

The regulation, design, and implementation of agent banking vary across countries. These differences are evident in the variety of services offered by agents, the types of businesses acting as agents, the types of financial institutions that work through agents and the business structures employed to manage them. These differences ultimately contribute to the disparities in the extent to which agent banking is actually bridging the financial inclusion gap.

The term financial inclusion refers to a broad financial system that provides access to financing, mobilization of savings, credit allocation, risk management as well as payment services. Financial inclusion refers to both the adequate provision of services by the financial institutions as well as the appropriate uptake or use of these services by all segments of the population. Although it is just one aspect of financial inclusion, an integrated payment system is a critical component of financial inclusion.
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