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Chief ‘thinking differently’ with digital expansion to aid clients

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Chief Bank Cambodia CEO Soeung Morarith says its micro-lending app is part of an ‘ethical drive to help the Kingdom’s unbanked’. Heng Chivoan

Chief ‘thinking differently’ with digital expansion to aid clients

With the leading financial institution set to unveil a range of innovative e-banking solutions, CEO Dr Soeung Morarith outlines its flagship developments, such as the pioneering micro-lending app.

What are Chief Bank’s plans for expansion this year?

Chief Bank foresees a positive economic and social environment in which to expand its activities in the coming years.

The bank has developed a formal capital management framework with clearly defined objectives for maintaining an appropriate level of capital adequacy. This ensures sufficient leeway for future business expansion.

A digital banking agenda is one of the high priorities for Chief Bank. We are now actively working on our innovative approaches by investing in cutting-edge solutions to digitally distribute our ethical financial services to all Cambodians, and to make them simple, convenient and secure, in order to contribute to promoting financial inclusion in Cambodia.

Can you tell us more about the plans for digital expansion?

With the digital-first mindset, we are accelerating the scaling up of the bank’s product and service distributions through digital channels. These include websites, digital apps, e-wallets and electronic marketplaces.

While the bank is investing heavily in digital transformation, we are thinking differently, with our new product development to provide greater convenience to our customers and ensure competitive advantage.

One of our flagship developments is to be our micro-lending app, which will be available by the end of the year. Customers will be able to assess their eligibility for a loan through the digital banking system and be able to apply for a loan from the bank digitally.

As part of our ethical drive to help the Kingdom’s unbanked and underbanked, this offers the best terms and conditions in Cambodia. For example, there is no lock-in period or penalties for early settlement allowing greater financial freedom.

We consider our customers to be long-term partners and pride ourselves on being flexible, able to provide more options and alternatives.

Chief has collaborated with Wing (Cambodia) Specialised Bank with a digital partnership across the country to give customers greater convenience when repaying their loans.

Chief Bank is also part of the National Bank of Cambodia’s Bakong payment system, which also offers alternative options for transactions such as deposits and withdrawals, as well as sending and receiving money via e-wallets.

We have been actively working to further refine our existing products and services, and rolling out new products and services to satisfy our clients’ growing needs.

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The bank has praised its staff’s efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. Heng Chivoan

Recently, the Chief Child Account was introduced. What are the objectives of this?

We have launched the Chief Child Account, which is designed for children under 18 years old but is required to be managed by their parents or guardians.

A secured and guaranteed in-vestment project, the child account will benefit holders with a competitively high interest rate of 3.7 per cent per annum, and instill good financial habits in children for their future.

Chief Bank is showcasing our care for children, providing good opportunity for them to start learning good savings habits, educating them on the benefits of savings, and how in the future meeting objectives builds mutual trust and partnerships, which is the key to shared prosperity.

Are there any expansion plans in terms of branches?

The bank is undertaking branch network expansion in high potential areas in Phnom Penh and in the main provincial towns, together with a digital strategy and agent banking to complement its existing distribution channels.

Currently, we have four branches in Phnom Penh – our Boeung Kak branch, Chbar Ampov branch, Olympic branch, and Preah Norodom branch – all in prime locations across Phnom Penh, and we are set to open at least another four.

The bank has identified some main locations where financial supply is lower and demand is higher as having the greatest potential.

With the expansion of the branch network, Chief Bank is able to offer holistic and end-to-end products and services to customers in high potential area in Phnom Penh and in the main provincial towns.

This also supports the bank’s operations and brand recognition. Given the change from being a specialised bank to a commercial bank in 2018, the business concept and model of Chief has been transformed.

The objective of this transformation is to fast-track its expansion plans with minimal capital expenditure, thus maximising social impact delivery.

We will continue to look at any location that would require a branch presence in order to meet customers’ requirements.

How did Chief Bank last year help borrowers hit by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Chief Bank considers clients to be long-term partners as the bank continues to flourish. Our loan impairments or restructuring increased, but on a very small scale within the period as the Covid pandemic took hold. The bank has had zero non-performing loans [NPLs] since the beginning of operations in December 2013 until now.

We have in place a comprehensive loan support scheme for individuals, corporate clients and businesses, including bullet loan repayments, late fee waivers, deferred loan repayments and loan rollover or extension facilities.

We have demonstrated our determination to support customers within the particularly vulnerable segments of our communities that seek help from all of us during this hardship and in line with our long-term strategy.

We could not be prouder of the tremendous efforts of the bank’s staff members who have shown extraordinary agility and resilience during this global crisis. What has really stood out for us is how their actions have been tempered with humanity – truly embodying our brand promise of being here for Cambodians, by Cambodians.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Chief has plans to expand its branch network. Heng Chivoan

Chief Bank places a strong emphasis on ethical banking. How has this contributed to its success?

Chief Bank’s adherence to the highest standards in banking can be seen in its strict policy on risk management. This states that “Regardless of how good the collateral or how viable the credit proposal appears, we place integrity ahead of gains in long-term business strategies, and strictly adhere to corporate social responsibility”.

We have optimised our capital base, and prudently managed, operated and increased our investment. We continue to place our focus on risk control and risk management to ensure that Chief Bank remains strong and stable in this growing industry.

We have the right team, the right formula and the financial strength.Chief Bank has seen continued growth in the Kingdom since beginning operations in December 2013 with initial capital of just $10 million, while total assets were at more than $151 million as of February 8 this year, with more than 160 members of staff.

The bank has delivered years of solid performance, such as continued revenue growth and zero NPLs. Indeed, our loan impairments or restructuring increased but in very small scale, well below the industry average.

What is behind Chief Bank going from strength to strength?

The key to the bank’s continuing success in the Kingdom is its commitment to people and ethical investment, coupled with Chief Group’s successful model and decades of experience in major global financial hub Hong Kong.

With our shareholders’ backgrounds in Hong Kong as comprehensive financial service providers for more than 41 years, Chief Bank inherits the fine tradition of doing business by embracing a customer-focused philosophy, with the relentless pursuit of service excellence. We are committed to being a good companion with our dearest customers on their journey towards goal achievement and wealth accumulation.

Chief Bank is working for a better future for people in Cambodia – our valued customers, our employees and Cambodia’s banking industry, and society at large. Their success is our success.

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