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Room for improvement in Cambodia’s bank sector

While Cambodia has made considerable strides in its banking sector, it still lags behind countries in the region in the areas of e-banking and access to services, industry experts attending the Fifth Banking and Microfinance Conference at the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh said yesterday.

Past success and future hurdles were prime topics of conversation at the conference.

Ros Sokha, senior manager of cards and e-banking at the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia , said information technology and connectivity would help drive an industry that currently trails behind regional neighbours  Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

“As of 2015, countries in Asia, especially those in the Southeast region, will be more integrated and there will be a huge opportunity in banking, when large amounts of banking experts will be trained up to meet the [sector’s] needs,” he said.

Chea Phalarin, the Chief Executive Officer at Amret Microfinance, said Amret is pursuing a service-oriented strategy going forward by installing more ATMs and mobile-banking opportunities for customers.

But while he believes banking technology in Cambodia is progressing fast, “right now we are still far from other countries,” he said.

At the end of March, Cambodia had 713 ATMs, compared with 613 after the first three months of 2012, data from the National Bank of Cambodia show. At the end of 2011, meanwhile, the Kingdom counted only 500 machines.

Cambodia has 33 commercial banks and seven specialised banks, according to the same data.

Hiroshi Suzuki, Chief Economist of the Business Research Institute for Cambodia (BRIC) said there was plenty of room for improvement in the industry.

“Areas such as the use of an ID system and internet banking can be strengthened,” he said, adding that the government should also incorporate stronger oversight.

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