Noting that there are thousands of people in the UAE that do not have bank accounts, Emirates Bank said in a statement yesterday that the new service would be available through various channels including SMS (short messaging service through mobile phones), call centres and ATMs (automated teller machines).
"We have designed this solution to address the specific needs of our customers who are looking for a very cost-effective and convenient method to send money back home," said Jamal bin Ghalaita, general manager for customer banking and wealth management, Emirates Bank.
He said many employers, merchants and government agencies have expressed interests in availing of the bank's new service by creating an "all-in-one payment card" that can be recharged at hundreds of locations around the UAE.
The statement said there is an "urgent need" for low-income workers to draw their salaries through banks instead of accepting cash from their employers, a method which it described as "expensive, time-consuming and prone to abuse".
The workers need not maintain a minimum monthly requirement, and could remit funds to their families back in their own countries in a more convenient method.
Farooq Bajwa, chairman of Infospan, said the company's "cutting-edge" technology is now operational for transactions between the US and countries in South America. "With the bank's strong presence in the UAE and our global payments network, we can provide customers...highly secure and very convenient platform to remit funds, and pay local and international bills," he said.
The statement quoted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as saying that migrant workers worldwide remit about $350 billion per annum, 20 per cent of which comes from the Gulf countries. But since the remittances coming from the Gulf represent millions of small value transactions, usually less than $300 per remittance, most banks cannot profitably compete with unofficial channels.
"Our distinctive solution will provide customers a cost-effective and secure alternative," Bin Ghalaita said.
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