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Mobitel oversight uncertain

Mobitel oversight uncertain

MOBITEL’S money-transfer service for mobile-phone users is set to launch in the next two months, but without oversight from the National Bank of Cambodia.

“We’re getting pretty close [to the launch],” operations manager Kay Lot said. He expected the service to begin in less than eight weeks.

Mobitel, the largest phone provider in the Kingdom by subscriber numbers, received a grant in May from the US$5 million GSM Association Foundation – which is largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – to help provide financial services to unbanked populations.

Its goal is to make transfers easier for those without bank accounts, according to a previous GSMA press release.

“The GSMA initiative deals with mobile money, which includes features like money transfers, air-time top-up and bill payments,” Kay Lot said.

He confirmed that Mobitel’s new venture, unlike other schemes, would not be overseen by the National Bank.

“We don’t think this is banking,” he said last week.

He declined to comment on whether a bank would ultimately hold users’ funds, but said that “we haven’t finalised that yet”.

A representative of money-transfer service WING, a subsidiary of ANZ Bank, the market leader for mobile transfers in the Kingdom, said he hopes that any future competitors commit to oversight.

WING holds the money involved in its transfer service at ANZ Royal Bank, which is jointly owned by Mobitel’s parent firm Royal Group.

“We have been supervised by the National Bank since we launched 18 months ago,” operations manager Michael Joyce said.

“We hope any competitors make the same commitments that we have to protect the integrity of the financial system as well as the safety of the customers’ money.”

National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im and an ANZ spokesperson declined to comment yesterday.

The GSMA’s mobile money for the unbanked programme has extended 19 grants to firms across the world.

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