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‘Allied action required for digital shift’

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NBC assistant governor Chea Serey (bottom, centre) attends ADB’s Southeast Asia Development Symposium 2021. Photo supplied

‘Allied action required for digital shift’

Cambodia continues to face a multitude of challenges as digital payments and solutions graduate from a niche business to a key segment in the Kingdom’s development strategy, according to National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) assistant governor Chea Serey on March 17.

Serey stressed that collaborative action among development partners, industrial players and relevant stakeholders will be required to “move up into the digital world”.

She was speaking at a virtual meeting entitled Harnessing Technology for Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience on the sidelines of Metro Manila-based Asian Development Bank’s Southeast Asia Development Symposium 2021.

She said the central bank is preparing a strategy to streamline the digital onboarding of new customers through platforms that are compliant with Know-Your-Customer (KYC) regulations.

KYC rules ensure that financial service professionals authenticate and assess the identity, suitability and risks involved with maintaining a business relationship with a client.

Serey added: “Last year, NBC met with industry players and we agreed that we need to simplify our KYC process, but we need to go a step further so that people don’t find it too cumbersome to access our services.

“But at the same time, the bank has been working with other relevant authorities to speed up the [development and deployment of] digital KYC platforms.”

And onboarding suppliers to e-commerce platforms remains a burdensome and time-consuming process, mainly due to low digital literacy levels and the often overwhelming user-interfaces of new platforms, she said.

“The Ministry of Commerce has put out regulations to quickly catch up [to the rest of the world’s digital transformation], issuing the E-Commerce Law with hopes that it would provide more clarification on the role and the responsibility of each player and ultimately promote trust within this ecosystem.

“What we’ve observed is that even though people onboard onto e-commerce platforms, payments are still made in-person, and that could hamper the entirety of the digital space,” Serey said.

Moreover, she added, the Kingdom has made strides towards stable, affordable energy and information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, with the percentage of people with access to electricity passing 90 per cent.

“While about 58 per cent of the population has access to the internet, one thing I need to note is that internet service in Cambodia is probably among the cheapest in the world and yet its use is still not as predominant as we’d hoped.

“And interestingly, our research on digital payments found that loads of people don’t have access to smartphones.

“It’s really ironic in a sense – we promote everything in the digital world, but we forget the basic means to access it, and that’s precisely what smartphones are.

“We hope there’ll be more affordable smartphones out there in the market eventually so that people can access [the digital world] and use it,” Serey said.

ACLEDA Bank Plc president and group managing director In Channy recently told The Post that his institution pioneered the transition to digital with the debut of ACLEDA Unity in July 2010 and still leads the fray with the continued development of the ACLEDA Unity ToanChet app launched in 2017.

“I think ‘digital’ means to increasingly support inclusive finance and leave no one behind in terms of having access to finance,” Channy said.

PRASAC Microfinance Institution Plc vice-president Say Sony called on his customers to use digital services during the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

“We are setting out to encourage our clients to use mobile or internet banking to minimise risks involved in cash transactions during this hard time,” he said, adding that PRASAC has logged more than one million internet and mobile banking transactions worth more than $38 million as of March 10.

As of December 31 last year, there were 47 commercial banks operating in the Kingdom comprising 17 local banks, 17 subsidiaries and 13 foreign branch banks, according to NBC.

Statistics show that there were 15 specialised banks, seven microfinance deposit-taking institutions (MDIs), 76 microfinance non-deposit-taking institutions, 245 rural credit institutions and 15 financial leasing companies.

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