Chea Serey has been formally appointed as governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) on the heels of her promotion from central banking director-general to deputy governor in March.

The appointment was endorsed by the King through a July 29 Royal Decree. Serey replaces her father Chea Chanto who has held the post for decades.

During her time at the central bank, Serey has concentrated on promoting greater independence in Cambodia’s economic and monetary policy, improving financial literacy, encouraging use of the local currency, and developing interbank markets and the retail payment infrastructure.

She has also spearheaded the NBC’s Bakong interbank transaction system and a new generation of blockchain-driven payment solutions.

In an interview with Japan Up Close late in April, Serey touched on her promotion to deputy governor and her ambitions to drive financial inclusion.

“Before that, I was with the banking supervision and then I moved to another general directorate in charge of the payment system, economic policies, and international cooperation but even after moving on, I still feel passionate about financial literacy and the reason for it was in a way quite personal.

“Access to finance can be quite tricky because you also should not push loans on people who don’t need them because then it creates different problems … The only way to help raise understanding is through a formal education system for children.

“That’s when we started talking to the Ministry of Education, who was very cooperative and forthcoming. We reached an understanding that we would include financial literacy into the general education programme, so children from Grades 1 to 12 will be able to learn aspects of finance,” she said.

Cambodia Microfinance Association chairman and LOLC (Cambodia) Plc CEO Sok Voeun extended his congratulations to Serey for her promotion, praising her as a leader of development in the industry.

“She’s been playing a larger role in the promotion and development of the financial sector, and I consider her to be a champion in driving development of fintech [financial technology] and financial inclusion in Cambodia,” he said.

Speaking to The Post on July 30, Cambodia Post Bank Plc (CPBank) CEO Toch Chaochek described Serey as a highly professional leader, and expressed hope that the industry would continue to grow inclusively and sustainable under her leadership.

“We congratulate her on her new position; she is highly qualified for it, having been in the industry for decades.

“Serey has been driving development in the sector, particularly in fintech towards financial inclusion and literacy, as well as the Bakong system, which has hugely contributed to the development of digital payment solutions,” he said.

For reference, as defined by the NBC in its 2022 annual report, Cambodia’s formal “banking system” – at the time – comprised 59 commercial banks; nine specialised banks; five deposit-taking and 82 non-deposit-taking microfinance institutions (MFI); 224 rural credit institutions; and 16 financial leasing companies.

There were also five third-party processors; 34 payment service providers; one credit information sharing service provider; six foreign bank representative offices; and 2,869 money exchange businesses.

According to the central bank, the banking system’s consumer loans, consumer deposits, and capital respectively finished 2022 at 226.7 trillion riel ($56.0 billion), 174.4 trillion riel, and 63.3 trillion riel, rising by 18.9 per cent, 9.2 per cent and 13.9 per cent from a year earlier.

Similarly, 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 [GDP]”, the report said.