People can open bank accounts from anywhere as an increasing number of lenders have made digital options available, helping customers avail financial services without visiting branches during the coronavirus pandemic.
Digital account opening that takes a maximum of six minutes has put an end to fill out paper documents and highlights the changes in the behaviour of banks and customers brought in by the unprecedented crisis. Many people are nervous about leaving their homes, let alone visiting bank branches. They have moved to digital platforms to work, shop, communicate and get entertained.
It prompted many banks to embrace the new system based on the central bank's e-KYC (electronic know your customers) guideline unveiled in January last year.
The guideline, which was formulated just two months before the pandemic hit the country, came in handy as it let the banks and other financial institutions open accounts to help people access the essential service throughout the crisis period.
People earlier had to fill in several papers, including KYC, and submitted many documents to the bank to have an account.
Dhaka Bank rolled out the opening method titled "ezyBank" last week, allowing clients to open an account on smartphones.
Clients have to download the lender's mobile banking app "Dhaka Bank Go" to enjoy the service.
"This helps the prospective customers maintain a maximum level of social distancing and avoid being exposed to the deadly flu," said Emranul Huq, managing director of the private commercial bank.
A willing customer has to take a picture of his or her passport-sized photograph and the national identification card using the smartphone. The images have to be uploaded to the app.
The person needs to insert some information required by the app, including the name of the nominee.
The account-holder and the nominee will have to sign on a paper, take the snapshots of them, and upload them on the app.
Banks will complete the process after verifying the client's NID information with that of the Election Commission's (EC) database.
The EC has already allowed banks to access its NID database so that they can check customer details while opening an account or settling any financial transaction.
Clients will have to keep an initial deposit of Tk 1,000 with Dhaka Bank.
Once the account is open, the lender will send the debit card and cheque book to the account-holder's address without any charge, said Huq.
Customers will not need to state the information about their other bank accounts in the new form, according to the e-KYC guidelines formulated by a government-formed committee comprising officials of the finance ministry, the central bank and banks.
If the monthly transaction through an account crosses more than Tk 1 lakh, the account-holder will have to visit a branch to give a signature in person, Huq said.
Mutual Trust Bank introduced an instant bank account opening product named "MTB Simple Account" last month, said its Managing Director Syed Mahbubur Rahman.
The account can be opened from any digital devices such as smartphone, laptop and desktop. The debit card will be sent to clients' address.
"This has helped people to a large extent carry out hassle-free banking from their home or offices," Rahman said.
The digital account opening will help build a less-cash society in the quickest possible time and give a boost to branchless banking in future. The digital financial inclusion programme of the government will receive a shot in the arm as well."
The number of deposit accounts in the banking sector stood at 12.23 crore as of December last year.
Eastern Bank Ltd introduced the product several months ago, said Ahsan Ullah Chowdhury, head of its card and digital banking department.
The private commercial bank is operating the digital service under the brand name "EBL Insta Account".
"We have received a huge response from clients since rolling out the product," Chowdhury said.
City Bank launched the digital account-opening product "Ekhoni Account" in September last year, said Mashrur Arefin, managing director of the lender.
Some 17,000 clients have so far opened accounts from home, he said.
Abul Kashem Md Shirin, managing director of Dutch-Bangla Bank, said his bank came up with the digital product two months ago.
Bank Asia, Mercantile Bank, and Southeast Bank have already rolled out the service, said bankers.
IFIC Bank is also offering the service, according to its website.
Brac Bank, South Bangla Agriculture and Commerce Bank, and Jamuna Bank are set to make the digital account opening service available for its clients within a month. Premier Bank and NCC Bank plan to roll it out shortly.
Prime Bank has completed the preparation to introduce the product, which may hit the market within the next two months, an official of the bank said.