A total of 38 percent of the country’s population now has bank accounts, up from 26 percent in 2006, the latest Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) statistics have shown.
The figure, however, does not represent the exact number of people having bank accounts as a single person may have several accounts.
As of mid-January 2013, the number of accounts opened in commercial banks, development banks, finance companies and micro-finance institutions licensed by the central bank reached 10.03 million.
NRB Spokesperson Bhaskarmani Gnawali said the number of bank accounts increased due to the central bank’s policy of increasing people’s access to finance. “Many have learnt to open an account,” he added.
Bankers say the proliferation of BFIs and their branches over the last six years resulted in the increased number of accounts. Increased flow of remittance through formal channels also encouraged people to open accounts.
“Several members of a single family are opening accounts and the growth is natural,” said Sashin Joshi, chief executive officer of NIC Bank. He said the increasing number of migrant workers also boosted the habit of opening accounts in BFIs among the people.
However, the number of people opening accounts to take credit has not increased at a bigger scale. The number of customers opening accounts to take loans is just at 769,000, according to the NRB statistics. “Although several members of a family open deposit accounts, only a single person of a family takes loans. That’s why, this figure could not go up notably,” said Joshi.
He said the culture of taking credit has not increased in Nepal. “Such accounts remain high in countries where consumer lending and use of credit cards is massive.”
Despite increased financial access, people taking loans from BFIs are especially those based in urban areas. In rural areas, people take loans from micro-finance institutions, according to Joshi. Deposit and credit accounts opened in cooperatives have not been included in the central bank’s statistics.
Over the last six years, 32 commercial banks have added more than 600 branches. The number of bank branches has reached 1,460 as of mid-January 2013. Three years ago, there were 26 commercial banks and 850 branches.
The number branches of all A, B, C and D class BFIs together reached 30,036 (one branch for 10,800 people on an average).
Meanwhile, the number of debit and credit card users reached 2.23 million and 39,000, respectively. BFIs have opened a total of 1,187 ATM counters across the country.