Alliance set to revolutionise Brunei's financial landscape

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN) - The alliance between Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) and Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd which paved the way for the launch of Progresif PAY, has created an ecosystem for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) where digital transactions are set to be the norm and the level of financial planning competency and financial literacy can be increased.

The benefits of this first-of-its-kind partnership between a financial institution and a telecommunications company was elaborated by Hajah Nurul Akmar binti Haji Md Jaafar, Head of Retail Banking of BIBD in a press conference on Saturday following the launch of Progresif PAY.

She explained, "The whole ecosystem is also about SME, MSMEs. Imagine at the Gadong night market, we want to enable transactions to be digital.

"The handling of cash can be risky and expensive. Managing finances is about financial awareness and planning. When we enable the digitisation of transactions, we can really help industry not only for the banking sector, but also bring awareness on financial planning and financial literacy to a different level."

Hajah Nurul Akmar added, "The whole ecosystem is not for individuals only but for SMEs as well as MSMEs to enhance their industry skills, through BIBD’s partnership with Progresif, this is possible." Also in attendance at the press conference were Chief Operating Officer of BIBD Dr Gyorgy Ladics; Chief Marketing Officer of Progresif Devin Edwards; and Head of Product Development at the Progresif Radi El Fassed.

Speaking on the collaboration, Ladics said, "The new alliance provides a new set of products and services to a new customer base. There are a few parts of the market which are not bankable.

"With Progresif PAY, we can reach the target community of foreign workers and youth under 18 years and those who are unable to have a bank account, and give them the opportunity to have access to banking-type services.

"The idea is to give them the functionality of a wallet and online purchasing capabilities using the virtual MasterCard as well as peer-to-peer transfer."

The BIBD Chief Operating Officer added, "Other elements of the agreement include the building of a solution that allows integration into our system and the billing system, so customers can top up directly through the app, pay their bills and subscribe to data plans. We have taken the BIBD platform with the wallet and virtual prepaid card capabilities and overlaid a customer care portal over it."

Meanwhile, Radi El Fassed, touching on the target market, said, "Brunei has a population of 150,000 foreign workers as well as some 80,000 youth between the ages of 12 to 18, so this comes to 200,000 who are unbanked as of today." Asked about transaction fees, Devin Edwards explained, "There are a few transaction fee scenarios. Peer-to-peer payments each incur a flat rate fee is of 0.5 cents, while a cash withdrawal from ATM is charged 50 cents. Bill payments also have a 50-cent fee regardless of the amount being paid."

He continued, "We are trying to keep the fee as flat as possible and as similar as possible with other forms of payment.

"When we introduce an overseas remittance feature there will be a fee, however we expect the fee to still be significantly less than what people are currently paying in the market."

A big part of this new payment ecosystem for foreign workers is that employers can now pay their salaries through the Progresif PAY app, help in their purchasing needs, while the workers themselves can transfer money back to their home countries without having to lose a day or half a day queuing at the banks.

Commenting on what this partnership with Progresif means for BIBD, Dr Ladics said, "From BIBD’s perspective, this alliance is actually opening a new segment and market for BIBD. So BIBD is providing a number of transactions for our customer base.

By creating a larger ecosystem for BIBD and Progresif customers, we are stimulating the execution of transactions and payments across this ecosystem.

"We believe that with the alliance, we are enhancing our payments ecosystem to reach out to the segment of people who do not have access to any financial services or the functions they need."

Powered by BIBD NEXGEN, the launch of Progresif PAY creates a stout alliance between Brunei’s most innovative mobile operator and Brunei’s best digital bank, which is at the forefront of branchless banking and mobile commerce.

The pairing will facilitate business activity and create greater commercial efficiency, as well as help in the diversification and development of Brunei’s digital economy, in line with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Brunei Vision 2035 calling for a more dynamic and sustainable economy. It will also allow consumers – through Progresif PAY – access to the formidable digital capabilities of the BIBD NEXGEN infrastructure for the first time.

Progresif PAY, launched on May 14, increases convenience for businesses and consumers in payment transactions, allowing them to make bill payments, shop online and remit money abroad securely and in real time, from the comfort of their mobile devices.

Parents can use the facility as an e-wallet to send allowances to their children, while young adults aged 15 and above will find that the service is a useful financial management tool. For businesses, the wallet can be used to accept payments as well as pay staff their wages or send payments to suppliers directly into their Progresif PAY accounts.

BIBD’s digital journey began in 2011, and has continued with innovations such as online and mobile applications which have been downloaded more than 100,000 times, peer-to-peer fund transfer technologies, QR code payments, and Brunei’s first e-wallet payment platform, the Virtual Card.