December 4, 2019
“These services are very convenient. I can go to an agent and deposit my earnings at the end of the day, when banks are already closed”, says Jasmine Nursharma, who runs and owns Phone Solace, a small kiosk selling airtime top-ups and sims cards, located next to the Suva Market.
Over a decade ago, Jasmine was able to construct her kiosk with financial support from her parents and siblings. As her business grew and with improved income, she is now able to cater for more customers from her kiosk. And as years passed by, she expanded services at Phone Solace, allowing people to charge their phone battery for FJ$1 (US $0.50) per hour. With the introduction of e-ticketing for public transport, customers can now also recharge their bus card at the kiosk. An ideal service, as it is located next to the central bus station.
Jasmine’s kiosk is open from 6:30 in the morning to 7 in the evening and serving around 1,500 customers each day. Due to these long working days she is not able to visit a bank branch at the end of her day to deposit her earnings. Instead, she visits an HFC super-agent in a shopping center nearby. Previously, Jasmine would have had no other choice but to take her day’s earnings home and deposit at the bank at another time during the week. Now, she can make two deposits in a day, first one is a visit to the HFC bank branch at midday and at the end of day she deposits the remaining earnings at the HFC agent.
Without such an agent service Jasmine would have had to continue worrying about security issues in transporting her afternoon’s income back home and make a deposit at the bank branch at a later time. These circumstances increase the risk of cash robbery, which Jasmine unfortunately knows well from past experience. Agent banking provides her with an opportunity to access services outside of official banking hours. Given her passed experiences, this brings peace of mind that Jasmine highly values.
“I strongly encourage people to use these agency banking services. It does not matter how much money you have, whether it is FJ$1 (US $0.50) or FJ$2 (US $1.00). You can easily deposit it at the agent without having to wait and waste so much time in the bank”, Jasmine says.
Piloting agent banking, connected to a mobile wallet
In 2016, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) provided a grant and technical assistance to HFC bank to develop, test and roll out agency banking in Fiji.
There are currently 23 banking agents across Fiji, spreading from Suva, to the western division and all the way to Vanua Levu. The locations are expected to gradually increase and include Vodafone M-PAiSA agents that are located in rural and outer islands.
More information about the pilot can be found here.