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  • Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan: Since 2005, a series of loans from the First MicroFinance Bank Ltd Pakistan has allowed Farida Imitiaz to establish a successful honey production business, increase her household income and improve the quality of life for her family.
    AKDN / Kamran Beyg

The First MicroFinanceBank Ltd Pakistan was one of the earliest AKAM affiliates to be established in 2002. Since then, it has provided over $712.65 million in loans to more than 2.9 million customers, becoming a strong player in the country’s microfinance industry and ranking among the top five providers. Currently, over a third of the Bank’s clients are female and two thirds of the borrowers reside in rural areas.

Pakistan is a lower middle-income country, with a GDP of $304 billion in 2017. Located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Middle East, it is at the centre of a regional market, and, with a population of +212 million inhabitants and large and diverse resources, is an untapped potential for trade. Pakistan’s growing working-age population requires the government to provide adequate services and increase employment, and coupled with economic, governance and security challenges, as well as its susceptibility to natural disasters, economic growth continues to be struggle.

FMFB’s ability to strengthen clients’ entrepreneurial base and build financial, physical and human capital to secure their future is well recognised, most recently between 2007 - 2018 the Banks customers’ have received National and Regional honours for their entrepreneurial innovations in the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards organised by Citi Foundation and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. The Bank’s strength as a corporate entity is also acknowledged. It carries a credit rating of A+/A-1 with a positive outlook, according to ratings agency JCR-VIS. It has also received multiple awards, such as approved employer accreditation by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (2015), and the MF Transparency Seal of Pricing Transparency (2014), Best Partner Institution by SBP on National Financial Literacy Program (2018), SMART certification for client protection (2018) and Gold Price Disclosure Award by MicroFinanza Rating (2018). The Bank has also been recognised for its Digital Financial Innovations. In 2019, two of its innovations First Awaaz, an online streaming service for Product Marketing and Financial Literacy, and Insta48, an tablet based customer onboarding solution, were recognised under the categories of best Banking Tech and Best Online Streaming Service in Pakistan Digi Awards 2019. Additionally, First Family App, a workforce engagement mobile solution, has been nominated under the Workforce Management category in the prestigious EFMA Customer Insight and Growth Banking Innovation Awards 2019.

FMFB-Pakistan offers targeted financial and multi-sectoral products and services based on the evolving needs of its clients, including a wide range of flexible loan products to serve the diverse financial needs of the poor in the rural, urban and peri-urban areas in Pakistan, especially women. Further ensuring the needs of its customers, the Bank also offers micro-insurance with credit and saving services to provide protection against life, health and asset related liabilities.

With its traditional focus on vulnerable populations, FMFB-Pakistan has sought to ensure a wide outreach and is the first private sector entity that is represented in all of Pakistan’s provinces. In addition to its network of 203 branches and outlets, it pioneered Pakistan’s first branchless baking initiative in collaboration with Pakistan Post, to promote financial access to remote corners of the country. In 2017, owing to the growing penetration of mobile phones across all socioeconomic segments in Pakistan, the Bank launched its Digital Financial Innovations department. Since then the Bank has launched 10 digital access channels that provide access to financial service at the customer’s convenience, include an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) based mobile banking solution for remote areas of Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral where internet access and availability still remains very weak. These efforts provide a strong and diverse asset base to ensure the financial and operational sustainability of the Bank.

To further tap a greater market share while ensuring that the financial needs of the vulnerable are met adequately, the Bank is in the process of upgrading its technological infrastructure and acquiring a state of the art core banking system. With the new system in place, the Bank will be geared to offer real-time financial services and begin digital financial services.

Building on its core areas of product development and research, in the coming years the Bank will continue to tailor its products according to the needs of the target populations and offer innovative credit products as well as savings, insurance and payments services to bring a larger segment of the population into the formal financial system.