Samee Zafar (Director, London) recently spoke with Mr Zafar Masud, CEO at Bank of Punjab. During the conversation, Mr Masud talked about the focus of Bank of Punjab (BOP) and the Fintech sector in Pakistan
Q1. What/where is the focus in BOP?
Currently, at BOP, we are placing significant emphasis on diversifying and expanding both our client base and product offerings. Simultaneously, we are diligently working towards enhancing our digital banking services and striving for greater financial inclusion. In order to achieve these objectives, we are actively expanding our presence across various geographical regions while introducing tailored products that cater to the specific needs of diverse customer segments.
The Bank of Punjab takes great pride in its leading position when it comes to Government Initiatives. This achievement allows us to make a positive impact by facilitating access to finance, not only in terms of liabilities but also in terms of assets. We are delighted to introduce recent additions to our product suite, including the exclusive "Khaas" Priority Banking proposition, the specialized "Naaz" women's proposition, the BOP Credit Card, and the BOP Freelancer Proposition. These offerings serve as tangible evidence of our unwavering commitment to diversify our clientele and product range, while simultaneously advancing the cause of financial inclusion.
Q2. How do you differentiate your services?
At the heart of our values lies our motto, which resonates as "care for all individuals" or "care for each and every one." This motto serves as a guiding principle that sets Bank of Punjab Pakistan apart from other financial institutions. Our unwavering commitment to welfare and inclusive access to finance distinguishes us, as we strive to cater to every segment and stratum of society. Our comprehensive range of offerings goes beyond traditional banking services and encompasses premier banking propositions tailored to specific needs, as well as digital wallets designed for efficient welfare and social protection disbursements.
What truly sets us apart is our steadfast dedication to fostering inclusivity. We place special emphasis on the empowerment of women, individuals with disabilities, and all marginalized groups. By actively championing their cause, we strive to bridge the existing gaps and ensure equal opportunities for all. Furthermore, Bank of Punjab Pakistan takes pride in being a frontrunner in Agriculture and SME financing, consistently leading the market in these crucial domains. This demonstrates our commitment to supporting the backbone of our economy and nurturing the growth of small and medium enterprises.
Q3. What would you like to see change in Pakistan for Fintechs to thrive/grow (e.g. easing of regulations)?
A more enabling environment is needed for the Fintech sector in Pakistan to become a thriving ecosystem. An open economy and regulatory interventions that favor the consumer are required. There is also a pressing need for the government to have a more active role in nurturing the Fintech sector in Pakistan; the government should work to encourage and regulate startups.
The Bank of Punjab recently collaborated with NICL and LUMS for the creation of a digital innovation lab to foster the development of startups in the Fintech space. The government and regulators need to do something similar at an industrial scale. Pakistan’s demographics are among its chief advantages on the global stage. Developing the IT sector and growing IT exports will go a long way towards increasing our GDP, creating employment, driving growth in the Fintech space, and advancing financial inclusion.
Q4. What do you do in your spare time (hobbies, etc.)?
My official engagements do not permit me much spare time, unfortunately, and neither does my nature (termed as “workaholic” by most of my colleagues and friends). The little unstructured free time I do get, I like to fill it with music, art, and books. I am a voracious reader and an avid art enthusiast. I frequent art galleries and exhibitions, literary festivals and theatre productions, live performances and cultural events whenever I can. I also indulge in writing and write regularly for various publications on topics related to the Economy & Finance.
Q5. What is your favorite book that you would recommend (does not have to be a business book but any book)?
There are many which come to mind with the most recent ones that I have read being:
- An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales by Oliver Sacks
- The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
- Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Bully Markets by Jamie Fiore Higgins
- Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy by Christopher Leonard
- The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
- Time for Socialism by Thomas Piketty
However, the book I would really like to recommend as my favorite is "Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development by Ananya Roy" which presents a thought-provoking and insightful analysis of the microfinance industry and its role in shaping global development. Roy's book challenges the popular narrative that microfinance is an effective tool for poverty alleviation and instead delves into the complex realities and unintended consequences associated with this approach.
Throughout the book, Roy questions the dominant discourse surrounding microfinance as a panacea for poverty eradication. She argues that rather than challenging the structural causes of poverty, microfinance often perpetuates existing inequalities by commodifying poverty itself. Roy highlights how microfinance institutions prioritize profit-making and reinforce social hierarchies, ultimately benefiting from the poverty of their clients.
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