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Novel ATM service for the ‘unbanked’

A person withdraws money from an Acleda bank ATM in central Phnom Penh.
A person withdraws money from an Acleda bank ATM in central Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Novel ATM service for the ‘unbanked’

With mobile money transfer services such as Wing and True Money continuing to spread their agent-based networks into rural parts of the country, local banks are increasingly leveraging their branch locations and ATM presence to provide a similar service through “Cash by Code”.

A relatively new product to Cambodia, Cash by Code allows customers from a particular bank to send money to an individual – even those without a bank account – through a one-time password that can be used at any of the bank’s ATM machines to withdraw the cash.

ABA launched its proprietary Cash by Code product, E-Cash, less than a year ago following a soft launch that satisfied all its necessary security checks. Since then, demand for the service has grown steadily.

According to Igor Zimarev, head of the bank’s marketing division, over 2,000 withdrawals have been made across the banks network of 128 ATM machines, amounting to more than $370,000 of funds being transferred.

“We had several reasons to develop this service,” he said.

“The local economy is developing rapidly with more people moving from small villages to large cities.”

He said E-Cash allows ABA Bank to reach the unbanked majority of the population “through modern financial solutions”.

“At the moment of the launch, we were the only Cambodian bank who offered this service to its customers through the mobile app,” Zimarev said.

“It is fast, convenient and can be made on the go on a smartphone.

“Another reason to launch this service is to help our customers in emergency situations,” he said, adding that it allows people who have lost their ATM cards to access their funds.

The money transfer service only costs $0.50 per transaction.

However, ABA is not the only bank to adopt modern financial tools that bypass the need for service agents to complete the transactions.

Acleda Bank, the Kingdom’s largest financial solution, has been offering a Cash by Code product since 2012 through its Acleda Unity account, though without a dedicated mobile application.

According to So Phonnary, executive vice president of the bank, the product allows people with little knowledge of financial institutions to access funds.

“Cambodians do not understand banking products besides remittances,” she said.

“And this product allows us to educate our customers and leverage our ATM network.”

Phonnary explained that a customer just needs to register a verified number for the recipient, while the recipient is given a one-time password. The password expires after 24 hours for security reasons, she said.

With 297 ATM machines spread across the country, Acleda Unity has 27,400 transactions on average per month, amounting to nearly $24.8 million.

Yet Acleda is not standing still. The bank plans to upgrade its mobile and smartphone services and release a dedicated app for the product by the end of this year.

Jojo Malolos, CEO of Wing Specialized Bank, which operates mobile money transfer services using a network of 4,000 agents nationwide, said while Cash by Code operates with similar parameters, his company was looking to expand its existing mobile-based model.

“While Cash by Code is not a product that is exactly offered by Wing, we use the same type of security codes for authentication requirements,” he said, adding that the company is currently focused on building up its international presence.

“We are offering different products that focus on international remittances that would be offered the same way through mobile phones.”

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