BoT looks to widen agent services
The Bank of Thailand plans to extend the business scope of banking agents to money withdrawals and retail payment services, expected to take effect from next month.
The central bank is waiting for legal approval before making an official announcement on the amendment of banking agent regulations, said Somboon Chitphentom, assistant governor, financial institutions policy group at the Bank of Thailand. The existing regulation permits banking agents to take deposits, transfer money and pay bills.
The amended regulation will require banking agents to have physical service points, suitable equipment and clear-cut operational processes.
“Commercial banks must take responsibility for banking agents’ services as they do with their own,” he said.
Commercial banks can select their own banking agents and which services will be offered through the agents to be in line with their business strategies.
Mr Somboon said banks need to include banking agents’ role in the overall distribution channel plan, for which annual reports to the central bank are required.
“Importantly, the overall distribution
channel plan and strategy need to receive approval from a bank’s board of directors,” he said. “Individual banking agents such as small merchants require approval from the central bank, while corporate banking agents can perform tasks without the central bank’s consent.”
Presently, commercial banks, specialised financial institutions and Thailand Post are allowed to offer the full range of banking agent services. Counter Service — a unit of CP All which is the operator of Thailand’s largest convenience store,
7-Eleven — AirPay and the online top-up machines Boonterm and Termsabai are also banking agents, but their services are only used for bill payments.
The amended banking agent regulation, which comes as traditional bank shutter, will allow people, particularly in remote areas, better access to banking services, while also providing greater convenience to those in cities.
Mr Somboon said banking agents under the amended regulation are restricted to providing a maximum money withdrawal
and retail payment of 5,000 baht per transaction and 20,000 per day, respectively.
Pricing depends on each bank’s strategy and competition in the market, but banks need to announce and inform customers of rate changes, he said.
Banking agents provide an alternative distribution channel, in addition to bank branches, ATMs and digital banking, he said.
The amended regulations will provide banks more flexibility in distribution channel models, financial services and transactions and service hours, said Mr Somboon.