Not a pipe dream: turning post offices into efficient retail banks

[29 11 2012]

The annual WSBI (World Savings Banks Institute) Postal Savings Banks Forum today and tomorrow gathers postal financial institutions from Africa, Asia and Europe to share their experiences of their journey towards becoming efficient retail banks. Post offices are so common that many financial inclusion experts don’t see the obvious: they could become key players in extending financial services to the masses because they typically have the largest distribution network in any given country.

So why aren’t they already playing a bigger role? Because of organisational inefficiencies and unadapted regulation.

“Postal savings banks are working very hard to turn an often obsolete organisational structure into a market-focused organisation,” declared Stephen Mukweli, Managing Director of Postbank Uganda. “Uganda and other countries have made considerable progress in taking into account market signals and adapting to customer needs.” Alexandre Bertaud, financial inclusion expert of the Universal Postal Union, confirmed this and noted that there is a growing recognition among policymakers of the role of postal networks in achieving financial inclusion.

Chris De Noose, WSBI Managing Director, declared, “A key element that needs to change immediately is that many postal institutions are still limited to deposit-taking and basic payment services.” To increase efficiency, he added, national regulators need to allow credit services and, in some cases, a banking license for the financial services within postal institutions.

Increasing financial inclusion empowers people and stimulates the economy. Rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again, we need to build on our strengths. One of these strengths is the extensive distribution networks of post offices all over the world. They are transforming into efficient retail banks. All they need is some help from national regulators and international policymakers.

WSBI - The Global Voice of Savings and Retail Banking
WSBI (World Savings Banks Institute) is an international banking association that represents savings and retail banks and associations thereof in 90 countries of the world (Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Africa and Europe). WSBI represents more than 6,150 financial institutions. At the end of 2010, these institutions operated through more than 227,000 branches and outlets, employed more than 2.2 million people and served more than 600 million customers. Assets of member institutions amounted to more than US $15.6 trillion at the end of 2010.
If you would like more information, contact Dirk Smet on +32 2 211 11 90 (office) or via
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