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Lenders mull moveable assets

People use a motorcycle to transport bananas along Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard in 2014.
People use a motorcycle to transport bananas along Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Lenders mull moveable assets

Cambodian financial intuitions should allow customers to use moveable assets as part of their collateral requirements to secure lines of credit, providing the government and lenders strengthen the legal framework for monitoring these assets, an economic researcher has argued.

Speaking at the third annual macroeconomic conference held by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) last Friday, Pen Vanndarong, an independent researcher and employee of microlender Hattha Kaksekar Ltd (HKL), said that if financial institutions adopted a moveable asset criteria, it would be easier for clients to access credit.

Vanndarong, said lending institutions have for too long only focused on land or property as the sole collateral to secure loans. He urged that in order for the MFI sector to continue to grow, lenders should overhaul their strategy to allow moveable assets such as cars, motorbikes, agricultural machinery and crop stocks to be classified as collateral.

This, he said, would be a major benefit for small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) that need quick access to capital to expand and invest.

“For lenders, moveable assets are more appropriate to take as collateral,” he said. “However, the government and related institutions should develop a comprehensive platform to ensure that risk can be mitigated,” he said.

“For instance, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation and the Ministry of Interior should be involved in setting more advanced techniques in order to justify what are legal or illegal assets,” he added.

The initiative was largely welcomed by the industry as a progressive move toward reducing the obstacles that Cambodian borrowers face.

Collateral requirements have long been considered an impediment for both lenders and clients, as lenders traditionally require that clients leverage their land or houses while securing loans.

A report by the Credit Bureau Cambodia (CBC), the Kingdom’s only independent credit monitoring agency, showed that of the over $3 billion in outstanding loans as of the end of September, 28 percent of borrowers had multiple outstanding loan accounts. Over 85 percent of these outstanding loans were designated as for personal finance – often to purchase the very same moveable assets that consumers would hope to put down as collateral when applying for additional credit.

Say Sony, senior vice president of Prasac Microfinance, Cambodia’s largest MFI in terms of assets, said that to adopt moveable assets as collateral would be a difficult task seeing the high degree in which Cambodia’s grey market operates, where moveable assets can quickly go missing or sold without proper documentation.

“If we use moveable assets as collateral, we cannot take things like cars, motorbikes or other belongings from borrowers in place of land or property, because these items can be quickly sold to dealers or pawn shops,” he explained. “We take land ownership titles because in many cases borrowers can sell their assets in the grey market at a cheaper price without a legal ownership title.”

However, Bun Mony, CEO of Sathapana Bank, said financial institutions have been trying to incorporate moveable assets into their collateral portfolio because it would provide more opportunities for borrowers to take out loans.

“It is always good if we are able to accept a moveable asset as collateral,” he said. “But we need to make sure that our system to control moveable assets is transparent, otherwise it will be difficult to do that.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited the CBC's figure on multiple loan account holders.

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