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Push for mobile banking growth

A person uses a mobile phone in Phnom Penh in 2014.
A person uses a mobile phone in Phnom Penh in 2014. Eli Meixler

Push for mobile banking growth

Cambodia's central bank wants to increase the usage of mobile banking services, especially in far-flung rural areas, by encouraging Cambodians to open bank accounts and avail the convenience and secure nature afforded by digital banking.

Speaking yesterday during the “National Summit on the Development of Microfinance Sector in Cambodia”, Ouk Sarat, director of the payment system department at the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), said mobile banking could bring more people into the formal banking segment. He admitted, however, that mobile banking services in the Kingdom needed much improvement.

“Mobile banking still has a lot of challenges and to promote this segment we have to guarantee security and fair competition,” he said.

Sarat said that limited internet access in rural areas and consumers’ lack of confidence in the security of e-banking facilities was slowing the adoption of these systems. He added that the opening of accounts with banking institutions or mobile payment service providers would help reduce these fears.

“If citizens have their own accounts with a clear ID card, it will help to control the risk and increase savings for consumers,” he said, adding that having an account reduces transaction fees. He urged the banking and financial sector to provide more facilities to consumers.

“We want to push these operations so that there is round-the-clock access to banking facilities, as well compliance to international standards,” he said.

So Phonnary, executive vice president at Acleda Bank, said given the low financial education levels seen across the country, the bank was spending more resources to encourage consumers to embrace mobile banking.

“We need time to explain to citizens and make them confident on the safety of accessing money through mobile services,” she said.

Phonnary added that the sector needs to simplify their systems to make it easy for consumers, and to use Khmer language in mobile banking interfaces.

Currently just 10 per cent of Cambodian mobile phone users are using mobile banking services, noted Kea Borann, CEO of AMK Microfinance, adding that banks needed to improve their technology to attract more clients.

“We still have 90 per cent of phone users who are not using mobile banking mobile, so we still have to attract them by using new technologies and systems,” he said.

Borann said the major challenge to getting people into mobile banking was the fundamental aversion to savings among local consumers.

“We are challenged by people who save money under their pillow or at home and they do not understand that saving with a licensed microfinance institution is better.”

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