Multipliers of Prosperity | Agents of Change
By WSJ. Custom Studios
At the end of a winding dirt road in Gazipur, Bangladesh, women crowd into a fluorescent-lit stall. One of them, Khodaza Khatun, is providing her fingerprints for a tiny biometric scanner. One by one, she presses her fingers on the machine, pausing to adjust the folds of her peach-colored sari. When she’s finished, she’ll have opened her first bank account.
This modest space is the neighborhood’s first agent banking point, operated by NRB Commercial Bank and opened with the assistance of Swisscontact, its partner. Swisscontact is an international nonprofit that works on financial inclusion—the drive to bring safe and affordable financial services to underserved, usually low-income, people. The agent banking formula is simple: A major commercial bank opens a small outlet in a financially starved area, often little more than a tiny room staffed by a single agent or an independent contractor deputized to conduct certain everyday transactions.