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On Friday, the Bank of Bhutan added yet another facility, as it keeps up with technology and the varying needs of its clients.

The two latest services, mobile banking and agency banking, like its many other services, will make banking friendlier and easier.  Without having to bunk office for a visit to the nearest branch, clients could pay bills from their mobile phones, check account balance, and apply for credit card.  This will also save time, as they need not wait in long queues to pay utility bills.

People away from the bank’s many branches or an ATM can open account, make withdrawals and deposits with its agency banking service.  These services are good news to the rapidly increasing number of clients.

Banking may not have been an old tradition in Bhutan but, today, it has become vital and a part of everyday life.  From burying cash or stocking it up in an old metal box in a corner of the house to banking from mobile phones, our banking sector has come a long way.  It is only apt to keep up with technology, as the beauty of technology is that it can be adapted and customised to suit our own needs.

The banks are already providing internet banking services, b-wallet and SMS banking services.  There are also several credit and debit cards that allow people to travel the world with a piece of plastic.

However, notwithstanding the services and the technology, the culture of going cashless has not picked up as we expected.  Bhutanese still prefer to carry wads of cash to the extent that it worries people when bundles are pulled out from the pockets.  Handling cash is deep rooted in our culture.  We prefer carrying soiled notes, even when it is not allowed by rule.

If the much-touted point of sale or POS is either not visible or not encouraged by businesses, customers are not used to it.  Sometimes people rush to the nearest ATM, even when their ATM card can be used for transaction.  In other cultures, the first question a salesperson would ask is, “Cash or card?”

While it is good to keep up with technology in every sector, a sector like banking needs to win the trust of the people.  We cannot expect a farmer to use his debit card to pay for his monthly ration, but a lot of others can.  If the service is always giving problem, people will be discouraged.  And this is quite rampant today, whether it is at a POS or recharging your mobile phone.

Clients are left frustrated when the service fails at a time when it is most needed.  The 50 percent bonus Bhutan Telecom offered yesterday is a classic example.  Those trying to avail it will have to run to the bank to see if money was deducted after unsuccessfull attempts.

With a range of facilities available, it is also imperative to have good back up services and coordination among service providers so that people gain trust in services.

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