When Srey Ka enlisted as a Wing agent in 2013, business was brisk, with several hundred customers visiting her small stall near Kabko Market each day to transfer money to their relatives in the provinces. Back then, Wing was the only game in town. But in the last two years, at least five rival agent-based money transfer networks have entered the arena, some offering lower fees than Wing, and all competing for the same customers.
Their presence has cut into Srey Ka’s customer pool, she admits, with customer traffic down since those busy early days.
“I’m no longer alone in this business,” she said. “More players have come and some of my customers now go to them.”
Wing pioneered the mobile money transfer model here in 2009 and has expanded its line of financial services, while growing its network of agents to over 5,000 nationwide. Starting in late 2014, however, the company has faced competition from a growing list of rival networks that includes eMoney, True Money, Asia Wei Luy, AMK Money Transfer and Ly Hour Pay Pro.
Jojo Malolos, CEO of Wing (Cambodia) Ltd Specialised Bank, said Cambodia still has a huge unbanked and underserved market that needs a fast and efficient way to send a share of their earnings to their families. He said even with a bevy of new competitors, he was confident that with years of experience under its belt Wing would remain the market leader and most-trusted brand.
“There will always be new players eager to capture a piece of the pie, but what is critical is to understand the market like what Wing has done by giving solutions that cater to the needs of our customers,” he said.
“Our customers trust us because we continue to provide easy and convenient access to financial services to end consumers as well as our SME and corporate partners.”
But eMoney, a mobile money network launched in early 2015 and operated jointly by Metfone and MB Bank, also has its eye on the crown. With 4,500 agents already in place, and plugged into Metfone’s massive list of mobile subscribers, the mobile money service has the potential to leapfrog ahead.
In an announcement last month, Metfone said that eMoney racked up an impressive 13 million transactions during its first nine months of operation.“Over 300,000 active customers used eMoney, better growth than the market’s biggest provider, [which had] 600,000 after 5 years,” it said.
Kung Phoak, president of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS), said rapid economic growth and internal migration are driving the demand for domestic money transfer services.
He said Cambodians who travel to the city in search of higher-paying jobs find these agent-based networks a convenient way to send money home to their relatives in the provinces, and faster and safer than the traditional informal system of entrusting money to someone travelling by car or bus to their home village.
“The money transfer market presents huge opportunities for growth in Cambodia and I think that there is still a big room for more operators in the industry,” Phoak said.
“And as more players join the market, it will improve service and lower prices for customers.”
Koy Samphas, operation manager of Asia Wei Luy, whose company launched operations in February 2015, agreed that the consumer was the ultimate winner in this battle.
“With more players in the market there is increased competition, which has already benefitted consumers as they can get better service at lower prices,” he said.
Samphas said his company was looking beyond money transfer services to growing out its other mobile money applications such as bill payment systems and e-wallets.
“We are targeting youth who use smartphones. We want them to be able to use their smartphones as wallets,” he said.
And with the other mobile money transfer networks also looking in this direction, many expect this will be the next front in their battle for market share.