Cambodia Fintech: Leveraging Technology to Bank to Unbankedby Fintechnews Singapore January 14, 2016
With only 27% of Southeast Asia’s 600 million population having bank accounts, the region represents an untapped opportunity for fintech companies, in Cambodia these ventures that are leveraging technology to provide more efficient and cheaper banking and financial services.
In country such as Cambodia, the high mobile phone penetration rate – the Asia Foundation suggests that 94% of Cambodians own a mobile phone – has led startups and banks develop innovative ways to send and receive payments from and to all parts of the world using these devices.
According to Eric Duflos, regional representative for East Asia Pacific at CGAP, financial inclusion in Cambodia has evolved dramatically in the past few years, driven primarily by the success of microfinance.
One of the market leaders in microfinance in Cambodia is WING, a mobile payment service provider established by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited in 2009.
WING allows customers to send money by simply paying cash at one of the agents in exchange for a code which can be texted to an individual or organization, and then redeemed. Payments can be made in either riel or US dollars.
WING has close to 1 million users (half of whom are unregistered) and charges around US$1.5 per operation.
Since its inception, WING has become one of the largest payment aggregators in Cambodia, with more than half of its clients being farmers. Transactions are primarily domestic money transfers (close to 70%), bill payments (20%) and the rest is mobile top-up (10%).
“These services are very useful if you want to keep your money secure,” Pheak, a vendor on Phnom Penh’s Norodom Boulevard who five years ago became one of Wing’s 4,000 dealers, told the Phnom Penh Post in an interview in November 2015. “When I travel to the provinces, I don’t need to carry my cash with me and members of my family can pick it up anywhere they want.”
According to Gerald Ferguson, Asia General Manager at global business intelligence and media provider, RFi Group, in countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia, the large reliance on cash by individuals and small businesses has led people to open up to new ways of paying by “going digital.”
“[We] are seeing emerging and developing markets surge ahead in the usage of mobile and cashless banking,” Ferguson said. “This trend is due to the absence of large legacy systems from a banking perspective, coupled with a predominantly unbanked or underbanked population that is highly digitally engaged.”
Research conducted by RFi Group suggests that customers “are constantly interacting on mobile phones – a form factor that they are very familiar with and have a certain comfort level with transacting on,” Ferguson said.
One of the latest banks to join the mobile craze is ABA Bank, which announced in May 2015 a fully-scale mobile banking application in Cambodia. The app, which is both available for Android and iPhone devices, allows ABA Bank clients to check their accounts, transfer money, as well as pay bills.
Additionally, the ABA mobile app also allows a client to send money to a non-ABA client, who then can withdrawal the money in cash from any ABA ATM without using a card.
Image credit: Phnom Penh, Wikimedia.