… FIs say they are trying to expedite the process

Thukten Zangpo

Bhutanese who send money home from overseas have expressed concerns over prolonged processing time and documentation requirements imposed by Australian banks.

Expressing dissatisfaction with service delays, Ugyen, a Bhutanese resident in Australia, said that the transaction of hard currency, AUD to Bhutanese currency had been taking more than two weeks.

Another NRB in Australia shared the inconvenience of Australian banks inquiring about bank statements for transfers exceeding AUD 5,000, which is discouraging the remitters.

Kezang, also residing in Australia, typically used the T Bank’s TPayRemit App for remittances but faced difficulties due to major banks like Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Bank of Australia being not included in the service.

In response to complaints received from non-resident Bhutanese (NRBs) on delays in processing inward remittances, the financial institutions (FIs) have taken measures to expedite the process.

Official from the Bank of Bhutan (BoB), said that the recent delay in processing transactions was primarily due to extended tshechu holidays, which added to the existing backlog. He added that there has been a surge in inward remittance after the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) introduced the 10 percent incentive scheme from June 14 this year.

An official said that they have involved additional manpower for the remittance team and standard transactions will require a processing time of two working days. “Our dedicated bank team has been working late nights and even on weekends to ensure the timely processing and crediting of transactions.”

An official from T Bank said that their partner for the TPayRemit App from Australia had informed the bank a few months ago that the payment gateway, POLi, that the bank has been using for remittance from Australia to Bhutan would be shutting down operations in Australia with effect from September 30 this year and some of the major Australian banks had already stopped accepting the POLi vector payments. TPayRemit is the most popular inward remittance channel used by the NRBs.

In order to address this concern, an official said that the bank decided to add and implement PayID as an alternative payment method in the TPayRemit web portal with effect from September 4 this year.

“With this, there is a slight change in the remittance process flow with the customers being required to also log in to their Australian bank’s applications to complete the remittance,” an official said. He said that the bank has been trying to share this information with the NRBs in Australia through their agents apart from sensitisations on social media platforms.

An official added that the Bank is also upgrading the TPayRemit Mobile App in order to facilitate remittance by using the PayID facility through their TPayRemit Mobile App in addition to the bank’s TPayRemit web portal.

For documentation requirements, a BoB official said that the practice of inquiry from external banks for any type of inward remittance has been a longstanding procedure. “With BoBit transactions, an amount exceeding AUD 5,000 requires a supplementary due diligence check in accordance with Australian bank compliance regulations.”

He added that the remitter will have to submit three months’ bank statements of his Bank accounts in Australia and upon receipt of the approval from the Australian Bank, the fund will be credited.

Similarly, an official from T Bank said that if the transaction amount inclusive of the transaction fee exceeds a certain threshold, the Australian banks exercise their due diligence to check wherein customers are asked to upload additional documents like the latest payslip and bank account statement for the last three months.

“If the additional documents are not valid or have expired, further correspondence with the customer will delay the remittance,” an official said.

Remittance has become an important contributor to the country’s foreign reserves in the last two years and helps to meet the country’s balance of payment obligations.

According to the RMA’s figure, the foreign currency reserve stood at USD 573.61 million as of June this year from USD 792.4 million in the same month last year, recording about a 33 percent decline.

The reserves still fall below the threshold required to cover one year’s essential imports during normal periods, set at USD 603 million. However, the foreign currency reserve remains above the USD 464 million mark for critical periods.

The number of channels of remittance to Bhutan has significantly increased from six in 2016 to 10 as of this year whereby Bhutanese abroad can send their money through Western Union (Bhutan Post), TPayRemit (T Bank), MoneyGram (Bhutan National Bank), Rai Money Transfer (BoB and Bhutan National Bank), Prabhu Money Transfer (T Bank), BoBit (BoB), EuroGiro (Bhutan Post), Aman Exchange (T Bank), and bank transfer (SWIFT).