PRASAC, Cambodia’s largest microfinance institution by outstanding loans, planned to become a licensed commercial bank in the Kingdom, company officials said yesterday.
The news comes despite calls from insiders and experts – most recently the International Monetary Fund and World Bank – for the National Bank of Cambodia to stop issuing new licenses for commercial banks.
Prasac was preparing its core banking system, management and infrastructure for the transition, and targeting a launch date in 2013 or 2014, General Manager Sim Senacheert told the Post.
“We want to transform into a bank because we would be able to offer more services and products to customers,” he said, adding that Prasac had not yet applied for a license at the National Bank of Cambodia.
The MFI would not have difficulty meeting the NBC’s reserve requirement of US$37.5 million, Sim Senacheert said, as shareholders would be on hand to inject capital into the would-be bank.
The NBC now holds $3.8 million in reserve capital from Prasac.
ACLEDA Bank, the country’s largest commercial bank, transitioned from an MFI in 2001.
President and CEO In Channy said he expected Prasac’s transition to be much smoother than that of his firm’s given consumers’ growing sophistication with financial services.
“Eleven years ago, we had to spend a lot on advertisements and public awareness for our clients,” he said.
A joint IMF-World Bank report this week called on Cambodia to limit banking licenses and raise reserve requirements in order to strengthen the sector.
“The current degree of concentration and fragmentation poses risks to financial stability, while not delivering sufficient benefits from competition and innovation,” the report said.
National Bank of Cambodia director general and spokeswoman Nguon Sokha could not be reached for comment yesterday.