UAE-based financial services group Mashreq has secured a digital banking licence from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), according to a press release posted on Zawya.

The licence, issued under the Digital Regulatory Framework, will allow Mashreq to offer digital banking services in the country. 

With a suite of digital banking products such as Mashreq Neo, NeoPay and NeoBiz, the lender hopes to cater to customers in rural areas and underserved markets

Pakistan, where a large portion of the population is unbanked, is a significant market for Mashreq since, according to the World Bank, 63% of the population in the country is aged between 15 and 33.

Mashreq aims to boost lending to small firms and provide consumer loans to low-income households, particularly to young people and women entrepreneurs.

Mashreq group CEO Ahmed Abdelaal said: “Our ingress into Pakistan’s banking sector with the digital banking solutions is indeed a seminal moment in Mashreq’s strategic expansion plans. 

“Mashreq will, without a doubt, prove to be a catalyst in leading the evolution of digital finance and the wider digital economy in Pakistan through the deployment of truly transformational banking platforms and solutions.” 

Additionally, the lender plans to invest in rural infrastructure, such as microfinance institutions, to improve underserved populations’ access to financial services and spur economic growth through higher loan activity.

Mashreq group head of retail bank Fernando Morillo said: “We look forward to exploring a new Pakistani chapter in our strategic expansion road map. Through this powerful synergy, we aim to create and deploy a digital ecosystem in the country with infrastructure and institutional frameworks for the rapid delivery of innovative digital services.”

In March 2022, Mashreq launched a new NeoPay to consolidate all of its existing payment systems into one platform.