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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Award-winning ACLEDA Bank reaches out to all kinds of people

Award-winning ACLEDA Bank reaches out to all kinds of people

Whatever qualms former nominal head of Democratic Kampuchea Khieu Samphan had

about the use of money and the role of banks during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79

years in power - when currency was outlawed and the National Bank was left in

ruins - his wife So Socheath seems to have put that troubled past behind her and

has now embraced a for-profit, full-service banking future.

Socheath,

Samphan's 54-year-old wife, confirmed to the Post that she is one of around

131,000 borrowers with Cambodia's second largest lender, the ACLEDA Bank

Plc.

"I borrowed 105,000 Baht from ACLEDA last year," said Socheath, who

lives with her husband and children just outside of Pailin town, "and gave it to

my children for farming."

Socheath said she and her kids grew soybeans

and sesame seeds, and produced about 3 to 4 tons in a year for sale in the

marketplace. She confirmed that she paid back the loan without any

problems

"Because of poverty, otherwise I wouldn't take out a loan," she

said. "This year I stopped farming because of the drought and I also had a back

problem."

ACLEDA Bank, for its part, grabbed the limelight on Sept 21

when it was announced that the International Finance Corporation had awarded the

bank its 2005 Client Leadership Award.

"ACLEDA Bank's evolution from a

non-profit institution focusing on rural development to a first-tier commercial

bank serving thousands of entrepreneurs, in both rural and urban areas, is a

role model for any business, not just microfinance institutions," said Assaad

Jabre, IFC's Acting Executive Vice President in a Sept 21 press

release.

"The winner of the IFC Client Leadership Award should be a

company that sets the standard for leadership in corporate governance, community

involvement, environmental and social sustainability, and commercial

success-ACLEDA has truly earned this award," Jabre added.

ACLEDA's

General Manager In Channy was in an ebullient mood on Sept 21 as he prepared to

head off to Washington, D.C. to accept the award. He told the Post that ACLEDA

was selected this year from among 1,400 nominees worldwide.

Of

particular significance, given Cambodia's recent 30 years of violent conflict

and the resultant mindset in which people do not trust banks, is ACLEDA's

success in expanding the number of savings accounts.

"We have 76,979

small savers now," said Channy, noting that deposits were almost nil in 2001 and

had now reached nearly US$62 million.

ACLEDA Bank was set up in 1993 as

an NGO with support from UNDP and other aid agencies as part of a larger global

developmental trend to support microfinance initiatives designed to help

alleviate poverty. In 1998, with assistance from the IFC's Mekong Private Sector

Development Facility, it transitioned into a full-service private bank.

The bank's current loan portfolio stands at around US$81 million with

women comprising 70 percent of its borrowers. It has 136 offices and branches

around the Kingdom.

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