CEO wants to shift cash to mobile and internet
What started out as an idea by ANZ Bank to help low income Cambodians transfer money easily to the provinces has grown into a profitable business with a young CEO who sees a coming sea change in how people pay for things in Cambodia.
Anthony Perkins, 36, who joined Wing in 2008, said last week if growth rates continue at current levels, Wing will process more than a billion dollars this year.
Perkins said that starting in June 2011, Wing’s domestic remittance product has “caught fire” and has been growing at 25 to 30 per cent per month. In March, Wing processed $75 million in transactions.
Perkins attributes Wing’s success to the quality and visibility of the network which has 900 Wing Cash Xpress locations which enable people to use their cell phones to transfer money and collect cash from anywhere to anywhere in Cambodia, along with 7,000 Wing phone top up dealers nationwide.
“Our remittance product is uniform and nationwide,” he said.
What helped Wing really take off was advertising.
“We advertised the fact that you could get money from A to B for a cost between $0.50 and $1.50 and move any amount, no matter how far. Other providers have complicated pricing structures,” he said.
Competing money transfer services include microfinance institutions (MFIs), banks and informal methods.
Perkins said mobile phone top-ups capability really helped Wing take off in mid-2009.
“Log into a Wing account and you’re topped up immediately with any mobile operator. That was the first product that kicked off.”
The first mobile operator Wing signed up was Hello in January 2009, but gradually all the other operators have been added.
“The last one to go live was Cellcard in January this year,” Perkins said. “That was the last significant piece of the telco jigsaw.”
The next big adventure for Wing is taking the network of 7,000 Point of Sale terminals around Cambodia, normally used for mobile phone top-ups, and integrating those into Wing’s system so people can use their Wing cards and mobile phones to easily pay for things everywhere.
The system will enable people to make payments with any phone or Wing ATM card using “near field communications” (NFC) technology.
“We’ve got 7,000 dealers who print phone top up and we are in the process of putting those two networks together,” Perkins said. “The benefit is we got an ATM card and the largest point of sale (POS) terminal network in the country by far. This makes retail payments very easy. You’ll be able to walk into a supermarket or mini-mart for example and pay with your Wing card or your phone.”
Perkins said Samsung’s smart phones have NFC technology already built in, creating a large existing retail customer base. He said 1,000 of the 7,000 POS terminals around Cambodia are already NFC capable.
Retail outlets including Score Bar in BKK1 are already testing the NFC technology, Perkins said.
Perkins says another big future growth area is online payments.
Wing, which has 160 employees, is now developing an online payment system similar to PayPal. Perkins says the system, now in a trial phase, uses an “application programming interface” or API.
Perkins says Wing is also connecting their service with Visa so that Wing cards will also become Visa cards in the future, “Coming in July you’ll be able to do Visa transactions and the great thing is this opens up international remittance. By tying up with Visa, it means any Visa card holder can send money to any other Visa card holder.”
Perkins says people can store money in Wing accounts and while they don’t get interest payments like banks give, there is a zero minimum balance and there are zero monthly fees.
“We don’t charge account keeping fees. If you just want to put your money in there and keep it safe, there’s no charge for that.”
The big picture for Perkins as Wing CEO is to replace cash movements with electronic.
“We do a lot of payroll and we’re starting to do business to business transactions,” he said. “For me the key thing for Wing is basically to replace cash. Wherever there is cash we want to replace it with electronic. The speed of it gives you the ability to move money from one place to another securely and instantly, whether you have to send money to help family with weddings, funerals or anything like that,” he said.
Perkins said opening a Wing account is easy, costs 10,000 riel ($2.50) and is free for Cellcard customers during the month of May.
Wing cards can be used to take out cash at ANZ Royal ATMs in Cambodia.
Originally started by ANZ Bank as way to help Cambodians inexpensively move money, Wing today is owned by Wing Singapore Holdings Group.
One of the original donors to help get Wing started in rural areas was AUSaid/ECF.
Perkins said AusAID officials at a recent conference in Canberra were astonished to learn that Wing had become profitable so soon, in a world where the majority of mobile money companies around the world have struggled to succeed despite heavy investment.
“They nearly fell off their seats,” he laughed.
Perkins encourages aid agencies to use Wing services to get cash where it is needed.
He said mobile money is widely used around the globe as a means to distribute aid money.
“If large aid agencies can do it in Africa, they can do it in Cambodia, We're ready” he said.
Perkins also responded to a request from Google to help them with advice on how to get mobile money up and running quickly to distribute financial aid following the earthquake disaster in Haiti in 2010.
Wing helps prevent skimming in places like garment factories, Perkins said, by enabling the payments directly to the employees. Perkins said the average Wing transfer is about $70 and the current maximum is $2,000.
Wing headquarters is located at No. 30, Street 432 and their website is www.wingmoney.com