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Licensed firm spreads wings

WING mobile money transfer service plans to expand its reach to handle payrolls and loan payments, after being granted the official go-ahead to offer United States dollar accounts by the National Bank of Cambodia.

The firm – owned by ANZ Bank – was granted the first licence to be awarded by the central bank to act as a third party payments processor, at Phnom Penh’s Raffles Hotel Le Royal yesterday.

WING allows its users to conduct money transfers, as well as services such as paying electricity bills and topping up mobile credit, via mobile phones.

It launched in January 2009 for riel-transactions only and presently partners with six Cambodian mobile providers.

It claims nearly 200,000 users, a number which it says it is committed to growing.

With the licence, “a whole range of operations open up to the wider business community”, WING Managing Director David Kleiman said on the ceremony sidelines yesterday.

According to Kleiman, the use of accounts denominated in dollars or riel will help the firm to launch services such as micro-finance payments and meeting of payrolls for businesses such as hotels and garment factories – where transactions are generally conducted in dollars.

Traditionally, many Cambodian firms met payrolls through handing out cash or through bank accounts, but the process often contains risks and costs.

Armed guards were often hired to guard the cash at the firms’ expense, or companies had to shoulder the expense of opening bank accounts for all of their employees, he said.

WING would also like to handle in-bound international remittances as more and more Cambodians were travelling abroad to seek higher-paid work, often sending money back to friends and relatives in the Kingdom, Kleiman said.

Emigrants required a method to transfer money back to their family.

“They need that service, and the mobile phone is the easiest, most ubiquitous, least intimidating way for people to do that,” he said, but added that the focus is on growing their domestic business at the moment.

The World Bank estimated that remittances received in Cambodia would total US$364 million in 2010, from $338 million last year, in its Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011.

Although WING has been issued the first permit, following an August prakas setting out licensing regulations, several other firms are following in its footsteps.

Mobitel’s Cellcard Cash scheme was launched in September, though officials have said it was launched without applying for a licence from the NBC.

Malaysian firm MobilityOne has also announced an intention to offer mobile banking in Cambodia.

Speaking at yesterday’s ceremony, NBC Director General Tal Nay Im welcomed the firm’s potential to spread banking services across Cambodia.

“The presence of WING has been a key contribution to facilitate payment transactions in the economy, especially money transfer services for low income people who don’t have bank accounts,” she said.

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