Papua New Guinea’s banks embrace a digital future


Banks and finance firms are rolling out digital products to take advantage of increased connectivity across Papua New Guinea, where about 75 per cent of the population remain unbanked. Business Advantage PNG talks to the key players find out what’s coming.

Digizen ID aims to address the lack of formal identification in PNG using biometrics and social vouching. It is the first project to graduate from the central bank’s regulatory sandbox, set up to encourage innovation in finance. Credit: Digizen

If there’s a milestone that really illustrates not only how far PNG’s banking system has come, but also where it is heading, it is the official demise of the cheque book, as of 31 December 2023.

Last year, cheques accounted for just seven per cent of all transactions in PNG, down from 44 per cent in 2015. The Bank of PNG has now hastened the switch to digital. No new cheque books will be issued, and existing cheques can only be used until the end of June 2024.

“Commercial banks are confident that payment alternatives to cheques will result in a more efficient and enjoyable banking experience for all,” David Toua, the central bank’s Chairman, assures Business Advantage PNG, noting that government cheques will still be processed for now.

“Our digital channels have been the key story of our growth”

Outlawing cheques “is a great step forward to digitisation,” says Lachlan Halstead, ANZ’s Country Head for PNG. “A lot of our customers are more and more interested in going electronic,” Halstead says. “It’s really refreshing to see the changes that are being introduced by the central bank.”

New systems

BSP Financial Group’s Mark Robinson

This move is only possible due to the massive investment in digital systems and services made by the country’s financial institutions.

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The country’s largest bank, BSP Financial Group, implemented a new core banking system in April 2023.

“Following a period of post-implementation challenges, the system is now operating in a stable manner,” advises CEO Mark Robinson. “The implementation of our new system has enabled us to focus on the modernisation of our service offering.”

Optimisation of BSP’s digital platforms will continue this year, with a focus on “flexible banking arrangements and targeted measures to address branch queues.”

“Our digital channels have been the key story of our growth over the past couple of years and continue to be so,” says Greg Pawson, CEO of Kina Bank, which has grown to become the country’s second biggest bank in the nine years since its initial public offering in 2015. “We’re doing quite a significant upgrade of our corporate online business .”

He tells Business Advantage PNG the bank will roll out “the first electronic Know Your Customer platform in PNG”, which will let customers onboard themselves without any human intervention. The bank will also offer virtual wallets and begin issuing virtual cards.

“Our system will allow customers to open an account with us online rather than needing to come into the office.”

Meanwhile, ANZ has implemented FileActive, its global host-to-host corporate banking platform, in PNG.

CEO of superannuation fund Nasfund, Rajeev Sharma, makes the point that the switch to digital is also a response to a generational change in its customer base.

“We are seeing a lot of young people coming into our membership. These are the ones who are more tech savvy.”

Strategic moves

Moni Plus’ Aho Baliki. Credit: Moni Plus

PNG’s second-tier financial institutions are also investing heavily in digital.

Credit Corporation’s new core banking system is “live and in production” and the company is already opening accounts for its employees before expanding services to existing customers.

Undeterred by the higher 45 per cent tax rate levied on banks from the start of 2023, Credit Corporation plans to take advantage of its new full banking licence by expanding beyond SMEs and commercial customers, although Danny Robinson notes “there are just a few more regulatory hurdles before we can begin to use the word bank.”

“We are going to be able to appeal to those who are looking for a more digital banking option,” he explains. “Our system will allow customers to open an account with us online rather than needing to come into the office.”

Another finance company, Moni Plus, will also begin using a new core banking system this year, a key component of its plan to pursue a local stock exchange listing in the next two to three years and, ultimately, a banking license of its own, according to CEO Aho Baliki.

Westpac recommits to PNG market

Westpac PNG’s Brett Hooker

Westpac’s strategy in PNG will be “underpinned by digital,” after the retail and institutional bank decided late last year to re-commit to, and expand, its presence in the country, says Brett Hooker, Chief Executive of Westpac PNG.

“Digital is at the forefront, and we would like to accelerate that in our business,” Hooker says. “The big opportunity is to take mobile phones and internet access to the wider community. We already have those tools, so it’s more about infrastructure expanding to a level where we can start to deploy them in PNG.”

Westpac’s business has focused on established PNG companies and multinationals, “particularly our own institutional clients out of Australia that have very long tenures here,” Hooker says. But the lender hopes the shift toward digital banking will help it reach more retail customers.

“There’s still a large portion of the population that are unbanked,” he says. “That’s why we’re going to focus on digital. We think that’s the way to get to people, as opposed to more bricks and more retail outlets.”


If the Bank of PNG’s goals for financial inclusion are to be achieved, banking services need to be brought to the bulk of Papua New Guineans, who currently have limited connectivity.

“Our branch footprint, especially in rural and underserved areas, has enhanced accessibility for people who may face challenges in reaching urban centres,” says Mark Robinson, who notes this work involves “a combination of technological innovations, community outreach, and collaboration.”

Kina Bank’s Greg Pawson.

Collaboration is also key to Kina Bank’s strategy, which involves partnering with microfinance provider MiBank, in which it also has a 15 per cent stake.

“That partnership actually is working really well. MiBank have had a tremendous year,” notes Greg Pawson.

Closer to the grass roots market, MiBank has been able to build its own digital tools to solve problems unique to PNG. For example, its Mobile Corporate service, launched last year, enables customers to authorise transactions on group accounts even if they have no access to the internet, and regardless of their location.

This article first published in the 2024 annual print edition of Business Advantage Papua New Guinea, PNG’s premier business and investment guide. 


  1. John Jamaica says

    BSP – ” post-implementation challenges” ?
    It was more like amateur hour. Or Amateur 3 months.
    Where on earth was the regulator ?

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