PNG bank signs up 100,000th savings account


In a country where banking services are hard to expand beyond urban and semi-urban areas because of deficient infrastructure, difficult terrain as well as isolated and thinly spread populations in remote locations, it is a commendable achievement: Last week, Papua New Guinea’s Nationwide Microbank reached the milestone of 100,000 savings accounts.<!--more-->

Established regional and international banks have long tried to extend financial services throughout the country under schemes and projects involving roving bank branches on wheels and other innovations. But it has been a hard grind for these financial institutions.

Information and communication technologies may, however, be more successful in extending banking services to the unbanked, as Nationwide Microbank has realised. It plans to launch mobile money and mobile phone banking services this year.

Over the past year, the bank has invested in technology to take its services further into the country. It introduced a dynamic application with real time transaction processing and head office visibility of the network – improving upon its previous standalone platform that relied on more traditional face-to-face banking relationships, causing people to travel great distances to avail of financial services.

Besides individuals, the Nationwide Microbank serves thousands of small businesses – from vendors, retailers and bakers to subsistence farmers.

Despite reaching this impressive milestone, the bank only seems to have scratched the surface. Statistics reveal that as many as 92% of Papua New Guineans do not have savings accounts with a bank.