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
Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan: Since 2005, a series of loans from the First MicroFinance Bank Ltd Pakistan has a...
AKDN / Kamran Beyg
HBL Microfinance Bank (HBL MFB), formerly FMFB-Pakistan, was one of the earliest AKAM affiliates to be established in 2002. Since then, it has provided over $712 million in loans to more than 2.9 million customers, becoming a strong player in the country’s microfinance industry and ranking amongst the top five providers. Currently, over one-third of the Bank’s clients are female and two-thirds of the borrowers reside in rural areas.
As FMFB-Pakistan, the Bank provided over $712 million in loans
Pakistan is a lower middle-income country, with a GDP of US$ 278 billion in 2019. Located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia, China and the Middle East, it is at the centre of a regional market. With a population of over 212 million inhabitants and large and diverse resources, it is an untapped potential for trade. Pakistan’s growing working-age population requires the government to provide adequate services and increase employment. Coupled with economic, governance and security challenges, as well as its susceptibility to natural disasters, economic growth continues to be a struggle.
HBL MFB offers targeted financial and multi-sectoral products and services based on the evolving needs of its clients. Products include a range of flexible loan products to serve the diverse financial needs of the poor, especially women, in the rural, urban and peri-urban areas in Pakistan. It 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, HBL MFB has sought to ensure a wide outreach. It is the first private-sector entity to be represented in all of Pakistan’s provinces. In addition to its network of 203 branches and outlets, it pioneered Pakistan’s first branchless banking initiative, in collaboration with Pakistan Post, to promote financial access in remote areas of the country.
In 2017, with growing penetration of mobile phones across all socio-economic segments in Pakistan, the Bank launched its Digital Financial Innovations department. Since then it has launched 10 digital access channels that provide convenient access to financial services. They include a supplementary service, a data-based mobile banking solution for remote areas of Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral, where Internet access and availability still remain very weak. These efforts provide a strong and diverse asset base to ensure the financial and operational sustainability of the Bank.
HBL MFB’s ability to strengthen clients’ entrepreneurial base and build financial, physical and human capital to secure their future is well recognised. The Bank’s customers have received national and regional honours for their entrepreneurial innovations in the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards, organised by Citi Foundation and the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.
The Bank’s strength as a corporate entity is acknowledged. It carries a credit rating of A+/A-1 with a positive outlook, according to the ratings agency JCR-VIS. It has also received multiple awards, such as approved employer accreditation by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (2015), 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 the 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 (a tablet-based customer onboarding solution) were recognised under the categories of best Banking Tech and Best Online Streaming Service in the Pakistan Digi Awards 2019. Additionally, First Family App, a workforce engagement mobile solution, was nominated under the Workforce Management category in the prestigious EFMA Customer Insight and Growth Banking Innovation Awards 2019.
The bank was rebranded from the First MicroFinance Bank in 2022 and will continue its mission “to enable people to improve their quality of life with inclusive and innovative financial solutions”.
To tap a greater market share while meeting the financial needs of the vulnerable, 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. It will offer innovative credit products as well as savings, insurance and payment services to bring a larger segment of the population into the formal financial system.