HDFC brings mobile banking to the unbanked in Sri Lanka

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The Housing Development Finance Corporation of Sri Lanka (HDFC Bank) has been innovating to develop services beyond its mandate as a housing bank. One of its innovations – the HDFC mobile banking services – is an “out of the box” and non-traditional product of a housing bank that aims to bring banking services as well as promote financial literacy to the underserved and unbanked population of Sri Lanka. To effectively promote its mobile banking services, HDFC invested in information technology to expand its market base to grassroots level with the use of hand-held devices.  This was initiated with ‘palm top’ technology and with the support of a group of Promotional Assistants (PAs) attached to Bank branches. This operation was initiated in 2007 and was further strengthened by recruiting new operators to the group which now covers all branches of the Bank and operating successfully with over 120 Palm Top machines and operators and daily visit of about 15,000 customers nation-wide. Majority of these customers are pavement hawkers, boutique/shop keepers, daily-waged laborers, etc. whose income is not permanent with over 80 % of them making an average daily deposit of not less than LKR250 (US$2). Over the years, the number of customers using this service has been increasing to over 25,000 customers, ranging from low to middle income segments. The Bank has also increased the mobile bankers group from 81 to 130 around the country.  The group takes pride in recruiting female trainees to serve the women entrepreneurs in small townships as well as in purchasing motorcycles to enhance the service in mobilizing neighboring townships in all cities where HDFC is present. Aside from becoming better in terms of providing services with technology, HDFC is also integrating the country’s informal financial segment into the formal banking sector.

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