HBL, Pakistan’s largest commercial bank in collaboration with Finja, the country’s largest digital SME lending fintech, along with an international technology partner, has applied for a digital banking license, under the Licensing and Regulatory Framework for Digital Banks released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
This collaboration will enable HBL and Finja to co-create digital products and services and rapidly increase financial inclusion in targeted segments. In this regard, the grant of a digital banking license by SBP will allow HBL and Finja to consolidate the existing efforts of both organizations under one umbrella to digitize the economy.
HBL and Finja have been strategic partners since April 2021, when HBL made its first equity investment in Finja. As a result of this collaboration, a unique digital lending program was launched, targeted at Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and their associated supply chains.
Commenting on the opportunity, Sagheer Mufti, Chief Operating Officer – HBL, said, “HBL views this opportunity to apply for a digital banking license as an exciting evoHBL lution of the digital eco-system for the benefit of clients, the unbanked, and the country. HBL’s partnership with Finja should have a significant impact in its quest for financial inclusion.”
Qasif Shahid, Co-Founder and CEO of Finja remarked, “Our partnership with HBL gives us a head start in creating and rolling out digital banking products and services well before other players aspiring to set up digital banks under the new license regime.” He went on to say, “The partnership puts us in a winning position as it ramps up our capability to offer clients digital products.”
HBL’s commitment to fintech sector in Pakistan
HBL has often shown its dedication to changing the financial landscape of Pakistan. As mentioned, it became the first bank to invest in a digital fintech startup with its Rs176 Million (USD 1.15 Million) participation in the last tranche of Finja’s Rs1.56 billion (USD10.15 Million) Series A1 round.
HBL inks Landmark Investment in Finja, Pakistan’s leading Digital SME Lending Fintech with Rs. 176 million participation in Finja’s Rs. 1.6 billion Series A1 round. HBL is the first bank in Pakistan to invest in a fintech startup. @StateBank_Pak @GovtofPakistan @FinjaPvtLtd pic.twitter.com/Vd095uArQI
— HBL (@HBLPak) May 27, 2021
Such an investment serves two of the bank’s strategic priorities, namely, making investments into Digital Financial Inclusion and Development Finance companies, especially ones making an impact in agriculture and SMEs as these are the backbone of the economy, and proactively reinventing HBL to become a “technology company with a banking license”.
Moreover, last year, HBL launched the country’s first and largest fintech summit. The virtual summit was the first of its kind in Pakistan. According to details, some of the biggest names from global fintech giants attended the event.