How BPR Hafi Agency model is increasing access to banking services

A BPR Hafi agent at an outlet in Kigali. BPR has over 300 agents providing a range of services, including cash deposit and withdrawal, sending and receiving money, paying taxes and balance inquiry, among others. / Photo: File.

In an attempt to bring services closer to clients, Banque Populaire du Rwanda Plc (BPR Plc) embarked on a transformational digital drive that saw the rollout of Agency Banking operations dubbed BPR HAFI Agents across the country in December 2019.

Agency banking is a model of availing a range of banking and financial services through engaged agents under an agency agreement with the owner of an outlet who conducts banking transactions on behalf of a bank.

 

The BPR HAFI Agent offer a range of financial services including cash deposit and withdrawal (either by using a debit card or cardless withdrawals known as izi cash), sending and receiving money, Rwanda Revenue Authority tax payment, electricity purchase, balance inquiry and funds transfer among others.

 

The bank says that they are in the process of increasing the service offering at Hafi agents before the end of 2020.

 

To ensure clients not only have to rely on bank branches to access services, BPR currently has over 300 agents across the country with plans to raise the number to over 1,000 Agents by end 2021.

According to officials at the bank, BPR agent deployment has been tailored and designed with an aim to serve clients who would have otherwise had to travel long distances to the existing outlets.

“Through BPR HAFI agents, the Bank is looking to offer all the services which were previously delivered through the Branches in a faster, secure, and reliable way,” the bank said.

The approach will also serve to increase coverage of financial services especially in neighbourhoods consequently decongesting some of the busiest branches.

With the rollout of the model, the bank say that they have seen improved service delivery in ways such as faster service delivery as the average time taken to perform a transaction at a BPR hafi agent is less than a minute.

Clients also no longer have to worry about branch closing times as agency banking outlets do not operate within formal structures and confines such as working hours.

The model has also enabled the creation of jobs as well as entrepreneurship opportunities for businesses seeking to serve as agents.

A potential agent should have been in business for at least a year and a half, in a secure and strategic location or business Centre, legally compliant with the necessary business requirements such as Certificate of registration and Tax Identification Number, willing to raise the required capital requirements to enable them hold adequate cash float to serve the customers.

Experts say that the model could play a significant role in bringing to an end challenges identified in the Finscope 2020 survey on financial inclusion which noted that an average Rwandan takes an average of 43 minutes to reach a bank branch and an average of 41 minutes to reach an ATM.

Access to Finance Rwanda, the report’s authors noted the need for improvements to reduce the time taken to reach financial access points in areas that exhibit longer distances in order to stimulate ease of access to financial institutions.

This will serve to increase the number of the banked population which currently stands at 2.6 million Rwandan adults, only 36 per cent of the adult population.

cmwai@newtimesrwanda.com

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