The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has announced plans to introduce digital cheques clearing and a unified QR code for payments in a bid to promote digital financial products and services by financial institutions to benefit all segments of society. According to a statement issued here by SBP spokesperson on Wednesday, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Reza Baqir, announced two new initiatives at the fifth stakeholders’ meeting on digital financial services. The digital cheque clearing – one of the initiatives aimed at accelerating digitisation and financial inclusion – would replace physical presentation and clearing of cheques thereby reducing substantially the time involved, the spokesperson said, adding that the second initiative – the introduction of a unified QR code – would allow payments by users from any digital application eliminating the need to use separate apps. The meeting was attended by a wide range of stakeholders including Chairman PTA, Major General (r) Amir Azeem Bajwa; Chairmen FBR, Asim Ahmed; Chairman NADRA, Muhammad Tariq Malik; Country Director of the World Bank, Najy Benhassine; and representative from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Representatives from Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR), Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Ministry of IT and Telecommunication (MoITT) and Ministry of Commerce were also present. The financial sector was represented by CEOs of banks, microfinance banks and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs), PSOs and PSPs as well as several other digital financial services stakeholders. During the meeting, SBP and PTA announced the formation of a SBP-PTA joint taskforce to work towards the prevention of digital financial services frauds. In addition, SBP and FBR have also agreed to form a joint committee to collaborate on a regular basis to increase digitisation in the economy. These and other initiatives have led to 30 and 20 percent growth in internet and mobile banking respectively in Q3, FY21 compared to the same period last year, the statement added. Dr Reza Baqir vowed that SBP would continue to promote innovative digital financial services and was ready to facilitate those endeavors by resolving issues as far as possible. He appreciated stakeholders’ support in facilitating the digital initiatives of SBP, particularly by FBR, NADRA and PTA in moving forward the drive for digital financial services. The forum was briefed about the significant progress made on issues identified earlier by the industry including removal or reduction of taxes and duties by FBR on import of Point of Sale (PoS) machines used for accepting payment cards; facilitation of remote account opening by NADRA; and a review of pricing mechanism for verification of mobile SIMs by telecom industry with the help of PTA. Briefing the participants on the progress made on SBP’s Raast payment platform, Governor Baqir said that the 2nd phase of person-to-person payments would be launched by October 2021 for which banks were being integrated with Raast. He also shared that SBP was actively exploring the development of open banking, which allows sharing and leveraging of customer-permissioned information among financial institutions to facilitate consumer choice, promote competition and efficiency in the financial sector, and encourage the introduction of innovative products and services to benefit consumers. The spokesperson informed that stakeholders meetings were started by Governor SBP in October, 2019 to bring key players from the public and private sector together for sharing information and co-ordinate the resolution of cross cutting issues in a collaborative manner to accelerate digitisation of financial services and promote the vision for Digital Pakistan.