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Kingdom’s prospects for fintech discussed

While financial technology, or fintech, has made little traction so far in Cambodia, panellists at a conference in Phnom Penh on Friday expressed confidence that the sector was poised for rapid growth.

Speaking at the Inspire Asean event, Tomas Pokorny, CEO of mobile payment platform Pi Pay, insisted Cambodia was ready for a rapid uptake of digital services.

“People say the Cambodian market is not ready for fintech companies to enter, and that makes me upset,” he said. “Cambodia has a lot of potential.”

Brad Jones, CEO of Myanmar-based money transfer venture WaveMoney, said while most of Cambodia’s population is unbanked, this should not be seen as an impediment for fintech companies to grow. On the contrary, the nascent market is full of possibilities.

“We only have 20 percent banking penetration in Cambodia, [as] cash dominates here,” he said. “However, Cambodia is a significant market [and] it is a great market to try out new things and see how they work.”

The increase in smartphone use across the country, with nearly 50 percent of the population owning a device as of 2016, is bringing Cambodians into an age of digitisation, explained Hong Samarkkeenich, regional sales director for the Singapore-based credit-determining software company Lenddo.

“Many underserved people are coming online,” Samarkkeenich said while urging financial institutions to embrace fintech’s market potential to reach out to Cambodia’s largely unbanked provincial communities.Citing a report by the Asian Development Bank that was released earlier this year,

Sim Chankiriroth, founder of accounting software company BanhJi, said he believes that fintech could dramatically boost economic activity by adding more than $2.4 billion in additional credit uptake.

“What we see here is potential [and that] the infrastructure is ready,” he said.

Pokorny stressed that companies should view Cambodia’s nascent market and challenges not as obstacles, but as signs for potential. He encouraged more firms to help contribute to the evolution of the market.

“We cannot [change the financial capacity in Cambodia] by ourselves,” he said, adding that there was plenty of room for competition. “We look at cash as our main competitor in Cambodia.”

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