Locally-owned ACLEDA Bank launched the first phase of its cross-border payment via QR (Quick Response) code in Laos on August 18 to encourage the use of Khmer riel for payment settlement in ASEAN, support economic integration and contribute to financial inclusion in line with National Bank of Cambodia’s (NBC) vision.

In Channy, president and group managing director of the public-listed bank, said the expansion of its cross-border QR payment to Laos comes after successfully launching a cross-border QR payment service in Thailand and Vietnam.

The bank is a member of NBC’s Bakong blockchain payment system and has been assigned as a sponsoring bank by the central bank.

In the first phase, ACLEDA customers would be able to scan the QR code and pay in Laos. Following that, customers of Bakong members would be able to pay in Khmer riel from their mobile app in Laos and vice versa. Lao people would be able to scan the KHQR in Cambodia in the near future.

“ACLEDA Bank Plc and ACLEDA Bank Lao Ltd have been selected to be the settlement banks for cross-border payments between the two nations for the acceptance of payments in local currencies [riel and Lao kip],” Channy said.

The cross-border payment via QR code allows customers and the public to purchase goods and conduct payments in their own currency when travelling to neighbouring countries by scanning the QR code, which is easier and more secure.

He said the digital system makes payments more convenient for tourists and firms while strengthening both countries’ local currency, streamlining payment transactions and reducing operating cost.

On July 30, outgoing NBC governor Chea Chanto said the connection of the Cambodian payment system with other countries in the region has been strengthened and expanded, which has contributed to the promotion of trade, investment, tourism and remittances, especially from workers working abroad.

“Among all payment systems, the Bakong and KHQR payment systems continue to raise the profile of the Cambodian payment system on the international stage, with some central banks seeking to learn from NBC’s experience in creating and developing more efficient, secure and cost-effective payment systems,” Chanto said.

Cambodia and Thailand on June 6 formally rolled out Phase II of their transnational QR code payment system. Through this initiative, the two ASEAN kingdoms seek to promote financial inclusion and the use of local currencies as well as cross-border trade and tourism flows.

The system currently enables KHQR payments for 7.6 million merchants in Thailand and Thai QR payments to 1.5 million merchants in Cambodia, according to NBC.

KHQR and ThaiQR are universal QR code standards for retail payments in Cambodia and Thailand, respectively.

By end-2022, “the number of registered e-wallet account[s] increased to 19.5 million and the total number of transactions jumped from 708 million to one billion with a total amount of $272.8 billion (increased by 34 per cent), approximately nine times the gross domestic product (GDP)”, an NBC report said.

The report also highlighted some of the many recent initiatives to improve cross-border payment mechanisms and schemes with surrounding countries.

Currently, ACLEDA has four subsidiaries: ACLEDA Institute of Business, ACLEDA Securities Plc, ACLEDA Bank Lao, and ACLEDA MFI Myanmar Co Ltd as well as representative offices there.