Like so many developing countries around the world Pakistan attracts a whole host of different opinions and different views. On one hand we have the high-tech forward-looking economy while on the other we have poverty the likes of which 99.99% of us could never imagine. There are very strong links with the Commonwealth and as such Pakistan is a fairly popular country for expats.
Depending upon which side of the fence you are sitting, the country has an economy which is growing, a skilled workforce which is eager to learn and is attracting some of the largest companies in the world. On the other side of the fence, there is a massive need for investment in areas of enormous poverty across Pakistan and the need to bring those who have fallen off the income ladder back into the modern-day world.
Willing to throw light upon this matter, Expat Forum has conducted a research in conjunction with Barclays International Banking to find out how expats in Pakistan do their banking. Main findings are as follows:
Online banking (68.42%)
While the likes of Australia attracted online banking interest in excess of 80% amongst those expats who expressed a view on our online poll, the figure is slightly lower at 68.42% with regards to Pakistan. However, when you bear in mind the massive divergences in income and riches across Pakistan this does compare fairly well with the 70.39% figure of the overall poll.
There are a number of reasons why perhaps online banking is not as popular in Pakistan as it is in some other countries around the world with reliability and availability perhaps two of the most prominent reasons. The difference in lifestyles between some of the larger cities in Pakistan and some of the rural areas is something which is difficult to imagine unless you have been there. Many of the poorer areas of Pakistan would never even have considered broadband connectivity because they are literally fighting day-to-day to get by.
So if you look at the overall picture of Pakistan, the size of the country and the massive divergences in lifestyles then perhaps the 68.42% figure is slightly better than you might imagine. The more industrialised areas of Pakistan are home to some of the more forward-looking companies and business entrepreneurs and for these people broadband connectivity and online banking are a must. There is a large divergence of different businesses across Pakistan which has helped to attract a large number of expats to the region.
Sometimes when we look at the basic figures regarding the answers from the online poll we automatically take a snapshot of what we expect compared to the overall figures. However, if we do take a step back and consider the country in question and the different types of lifestyle then perhaps we may get a clearer picture. In reality the vast majority of expats who move to Pakistan will move to some of the more businesslike and industrialised cities and towns where you would expect broadband connectivity to be fairly reliable – but it is interesting to get a broader view.
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Mobile banking (21.05%)
Interestingly the figure in relation to mobile banking in Pakistan, which we can assume to take in mobile telephone banking and mobile broadband banking, is a very impressive 21.05%. This compares with just 8.90% in the overall poll and would suggest that more and more people are happy to use telephone banking services and perhaps more lately mobile broadband services.
While the convenience and reliability of mobile broadband banking in Pakistan could be called into question in some areas it seems as though it is perhaps more available in the more crowded and populated areas than you might expect. The ability to literally log onto your banking services and rearrange your finances as and when required, on the move or any time of the day or night is a big plus for many people. When you take into account the fact that the business hours very often overlap with banking hours the ability to literally pick and choose your times is invaluable.
Mobile telephone banking is for many people a backup for the online services now available and with the growing number of mobile phone companies in Pakistan and surrounding countries it is no surprise to see this figure is fairly high. If we had a breakdown of mobile broadband usage and mobile banking usage then we may well be able to comment further but the overall figure is far in excess of the average. So it seems that more and more people are now happy to use bank call centres and ironically in years gone by many of the UK banks outsourced their call centre services to countries such as Pakistan only to repatriate them at a late stage.
Local branch banking (5.26%)
The figure of 5.26% is significantly lower than the 12.22% average from the overall poll and does pose a number of questions which we will consider. As we have mentioned above, the divergence in wealth and lifestyle across Pakistan is absolutely enormous therefore we can probably assume that a number of areas do not have reliable/full-time local banking facilities. However, you could argue that many of the expats who move to Pakistan will move to some of the larger towns and cities therefore it would be feasible to expect a significant local bank presence?
On the other hand we have the overwhelming success of online banking and mobile banking which together account for nearly 90% of the overall vote therefore pushing local branch banking into third place. While there is definitely a large presence of European-based banks and American-based banks in Pakistan surely we should be able to assume a large number of local branches? However, for one reason or another it seems that local branch banking is on the downslide in Pakistan in favour of more technology and mobile-based services.
Other answers (5.26%)
This figure of 0% is perhaps along the lines of what many people would expect from postal banking around the world in relation to the expat community. For many people postal banking is a thing of the past and something which many people would never even consider. The overall poll gave us a figure of 4.55% in relation to expats using postal banking services but there are some who believe this is most definitely history!
What are postal banking services? For the purpose of this exercise we can assume that postal banking takes in everything from cash deposits to credit card applications, from withdrawals to mortgages and everything else in between. While some of these may be time critical there are others which are literally simple instructions for bank clerks to follow and follow up on. So for some reason it seems that postal banking is not very popular amongst the expat community in Pakistan or is it just the postal service is unreliable?
The beauty of these online polls is the fact that not only do they give us figures which we can break down and compare and contrast but they also make us think about why such answers may arise. A figure of 0% is certainly a statement and it does make you wonder why there is such a low demand.
Despite the fact that there were some alternatives mentioned in the online poll unfortunately they were either tongue in cheek or not worth covering. The truth is that online banking, mobile banking, local branch banking and postal banking are the only real services available to expats around the world. In reality these banking services are all that any expats would probably need to get by on a regular basis and ensure that their finances are in order.
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Background to the answers
Each and every country we have covered has given us something different to think about and food for thought. We will now take a look at the various reasons why there are positive and negative aspects regarding various banking services around the world.
Security has been and continues to be one of the major issues which any banking customer will have about any banking service. Whether you are logging on to your bank account from home, using mobile broadband, using telephone banking or even walking round to your local branch there is a need to feel secure because this builds up a trust factor.
The Internet is by far and away the most affected banking service when it comes to security problems and security issues. We have seen time and time again highly publicised data capture exercise by criminal gangs around the world and every time this happens it puts up another wall between online banking and banking customers. The truth is that banks around the world have invested an enormous amount of money into their security systems and indeed if customers also installed various security software, antivirus software and were wary of unsolicited requests for information then the situation should improve.
Mobile phone banking and mobile abroad banking are also plagued by security issues, of they have been in the past, and the stigma is sometimes difficult to remove. The reality is that there is no one banking service which is 100% secure and it is a case of bringing together corporate security systems and customer security systems to create a foolproof system. Despite the fact that many people automatically assume the online banking is the more insecure service at the moment there have been instances where rogue callers have been able to obtain private and confidential information relating to customer bank accounts over the telephone. Be careful!
For many people local branch banking is perhaps the most service available but unfortunately this is most certainly in decline across the world. More and more banks are closing branches to save money and using these funds to invest in their online services and their telephone banking services. The sad fact is that the number of local bank branches will continue to decline into the future although it is unlikely they will disappear completely.
In the modern world where every second counts and many people are living their lives at high-speed it is convenience which is for many people up there with security as one of the main attractions to any type of banking service. Whether you are talking about an online banking service which you can access 24 hours a day seven days a week or even a call centre which is available through the night, people will use services which are convenient as long as there is a degree of security.
Indeed many people still prefer to use local bank branches to carry out their financial management although the days when you had a relationship with your bank manager or bank adviser have long gone. Many of the decisions made by the major banks around the world are made centrally and many of the local advisers and managers have little in the way of input. They use very strict formulas and criteria to arrive at an answer leading to criticism that customers are no more than numbers. In reality there are two sides to this argument and the banks would argue they are literally making decisions after stripping out human emotion which may seem very cold but is also very sensible.
It was interesting to see that there were no votes for postal banking in Pakistan which is either a reflection of the online arena, the mobile arena of the fact that the postal service in the country may not be as reliable as people might expect.
The reliability factor associated with banking services is predominately to do with online banking and telephone banking services. However you could argue that the opening hours of local bank branches can impact upon their reliability because many people work similar hours and may not be available when the local bank is open.
In relation to online services we have seen a number of governments around the world investing enormous amounts of money into broadband networks to improve reliability, security and speed. If there is one thing which can switch off customers very quickly it is an unreliable service were the broadband signal keeps dropping or the speed is very slow. As more and more banks are investing more and more money into their online services there is a need to ensure that the broadband network is available to compliment this. We have seen this in Australia with the multibillion-dollar broadband network project and other countries around the world including Pakistan have also invested large amounts of taxpayer’s money.
If banks are able to put together a secure, convenient and reliable system then there is every chance that customers will make the most of these and the return on investment will be acceptable. However, if one part of the chain was to break then this could have long-term implications regarding trust.
While it was interesting to see that the online banking arena in Pakistan is as popular as the average answer in the poll there was a large discrepancy between the 21.05% who use mobile banking in Pakistan and the overall poll average of 8.90%. It is difficult to conclude whether indeed this relates to mobile broadband banking or indeed telephone banking but whatever the case there was a significant difference.
The subject of online banking is an interesting one because at 68.42% it is only slightly down on the average for the poll but when you bear in mind the massive divergences in riches and lifestyle across Pakistan this would seem relatively high. However, if you do take a step back we can surely assume that the vast majority of expats who move to Pakistan for employment purposes will be living in the larger towns and cities. These are the areas of Pakistan which have attracted the most investment in broadband services and online banking services thereby giving a slightly different angle on the poll results for expats living in Pakistan.
The truth is that the vast majority of expats moving around the world today will have some access to online services because the vast majority will be moving to the more populated areas of their chosen country. Many of these will be skilled workers who have been specifically targeted by the local government to fill gaps in the employment market. We also have the traditional problem of bank opening hours often overlapping traditional working hours thereby leaving many people with little time to access their local branches. To many people Internet has been a godsend and the ability to do your banking at some during some the most unsociable hours of the day or night is perfect.
Like so many of these online polls it would have been interesting to see how expats would have voted two years ago, five years ago or even 10 years ago. Equally it would be interesting to see the same poll run in two years time, five years time or even 10 years time and compare the figures. Technology changes so quickly as do social trends and customer services and with the Internet there is no doubt that this speed of change has been increased dramatically. Could you live without your online banking facilities?