HOI AN, Vietnam, 11 July 2017 – Twelve WSBI Asian members gathered at the 2017 WSBI Asia Regional Group Meeting supported by host-country WSBI members Agribank and Lien Viet Postbank. Held in Vietnam's central coast city of Hoi An, the one-day gathering gave members from the Asia-Pacific a chance to list progress made by the WSBI during the past year, especially those made by working groups formed in the fast-growing region.
The meeting also gave a chance for roundtable discussions by WSBI member institutions, who presented major developments and challenges they face in their respective local markets and their strategic plan to build a successful future for their banks. One example was the WSBI Remittance Project led by Bank Simpanan Nasional Malaysia (BSN).
July 10: APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Financial Inclusion Forum
Organised for the second straight year alongside the WSBI annual regional group meeting was the 2016 APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Financial Inclusion Forum. Hosted by the Asian Development Bank Institute, the forum serves a policy initiative under the APEC Finance Ministers' Process as well as a meeting point for high-level dialogue amongst policy makers and regulators from across the region. WSBI led a session on agrifinance.
Speaking at the 10 July forum, WSBI President Heinrich Haasis said: “WSBI is proud of being associated to this prestigious event. The co-organisation of the two events has proven a success because it opens up a dialogue between policy makers and banking industry players from the region. Indeed such platform for open dialogue is most vital to make appropriate regulation that does not hinder, but helps industry innovation and development."
WSBI's achievement in financial inclusion
Haasis also gave attendees an update on WSBI's work on the financial inclusion front. He noted that WSBI is a member of the Coalition of Partners that support the World Bank Group's Universal Financial Access 2020. The association reported that clients reached so far by its members is about 1.55 billion, on track to meet its stated aim to reach 1.7 billion customers by the end of 2020.
Haasis added: “The success of WSBI members in financial inclusion is thanks to our smart business models used when providing financial services. We understand our customers, we know how much they are ready to pay a financial service and how far they are willing to walk to access to formal banking services. We keep a 'customer centric' approach and design and deliver services with the customer in mind. We harness technology to try and slash the cost of serving the vulnerable and to make financial inclusion more sustainable."
Locally focused banks and better regulation
WSBI made clear during the APEC-linked forum of the important role members play not only in financial inclusion but also financing small and medium-sized companies – the engine for growth in local economies. WSBI members sees SME financing being hit by a wave of new rules enacted since the financial crisis, most notably in Europe. In response, WSBI has called repeatedly for better regulation – meaning a proportionate approach to banking rules. Its members see a growing need for the principle to be recognised and used at every step of the law-making process so that existing and new rules are applied proportionately to different banks.
Haasis concluded: “A 'one size fits all' approach does not work and harms the vital role of locally rooted banks as suppliers of banking services and financing the real economy.
"Proportionate regulation has been better adopted in Asian countries than in Europe. WSBI members in Asia have benefited from the proportionality approach put in place by their national regulators. National policymakers from the region deserve thanks for support given to savings banks and community banks."
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