Service to target Kingdom’s unbanked, but competitors say it requires pricey handsets that will the limit number of users.
ACLEDA Bank aims to launch the Unity mobile-banking service by early next month, Senior Vice President Sok Sophea said, though rivals say it requires expensive data phones beyond the reach of many in the Kingdom.
Although it cost ACLEDA over US $1 million to establish, she said, the service will initially target existing account holders, but will eventually be marketed to Cambodia’s unbanked.
“Unity will be a highway for ACLEDA so that we can invite unbanked customers to join as well.”
However, use of ACLEDA’S Unity service will be restricted by the quality of hand phone its customers possess, according to its website.
All mobiles will have access to Unity’s SMS-based banking services, including balance inquiry, mini-statements and mobile top-ups, but the phone must be capable of operating a web browser or hosting Unity’s phone application to be able to transfer funds between separate ACLEDA accounts, or to complete bill payments.
A spokesman for WING, an ANZ-owned company and Cambodia’s present leader in mobile fund transfers, said Unity’s requirement for higher-end data phones may prove too costly for many of the Kingdom’s consumers.
“In our experience, this puts it out of reach of many Cambodians. It also means the user has to pay for data charges associated with internet banking as well as the fees that ACLEDA charge,” WING Head of Operations Michael Joyce wrote in an email.
A WING transfer is similar to sending an SMS message, and therefore requires only a simple phone. However, it also requires agreements between mobile providers and WING to operate, restricting the service to Hello, QB, Smart, and Mfone users at present, though “we are always looking to operate with more,” he said.
Unity is not restricted to specific providers, and will be cheaper for Hello, Mfone, Smart and Metfone users due to agreements with those operators, Sok Sophea said.
Its service has already undergone trials with ACLEDA employees, and she said Unity will be offered to Cambodia’s general population following a launch early next month.
“We want customers to be able to access account information when they need it, with no limits by location. Bank branches are open only 8 hours a day, five days a week, and ATMs also have limits by location.”
The bank expects to cut operational costs and reduce queues at its branches by offering mobile banking, she added. “We can also gain some revenue by charging for fund transfer and balance inquiry and other transactions as well.”
Registering for the service will require a onetime fee of $5, 20,000 riels or 200 baht, currencies that will be supported by Unity, according to its website. There are also associated fees for each transaction performed.