Cash is still king in Cambodian business culture. However, Cambodian banks are increasingly adopting online and mobile banking capabilities for their corporate clients in the Kingdom. With growing Internet penetration, investing in such services is one of the latest trends for Cambodian banking establishments. Is it a worthwhile step for your business?
Functionality, Security and Efficiency
There are a dozen banks offering Internet banking services in Cambodia. ABA Bank was the first to introduce it in 2008. According to Zokhir Rasulov, ABA’s chief marketing officer, banking services must adapt as the country transitions toward a more open economy and becomes more attractive to foreign investors.
“ … ONLINE BANKING REPRESENTS NEW SOLUTIONS, WHICH ENABLES CUSTOMERS TO RUN THEIR BUSINESS MORE EFFECTIVELY, 27/7.”
-Zokhir Rasulov, Chief Marketing Officer, ABA Bank
“Many foreign companies and investors enter the market bringing their banking standards to the country,” he says. “At the same time, more and more young Cambodian people are getting involved in the business sector and adopting modern ways of banking. Accessing the banking branches can still be a challenge nowadays for some of our clients and online banking represents new solutions, which enables customers to run their businesses more effectively, 24/7.”
But efficiency is not the only benefit. ABA itself had to adapt to improve functionality for corporate clients. “Our online banking service was originally designed for retail needs. We had to optimise it for larger businesses. With corporate online banking services, corporate clients have more instruments to access corporate accounts and manage finances easily and securely,” says Rasulov. This includes, for example, payrolls and a safe multi-level verification process for all transactions.
Increased security is another argument for online banking services, and is particularly pressing in Cambodia, where most companies still use public domain and public email addresses, such as Gmail, which can easily be hacked and can lead to theft and fraud. Through corporate online banking services, financial security is improved with multiple layers of authorisation required to complete transactions.
A Bet on the Future
According to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, at least 30% of Cambodians have access to the Internet – a rate that is expected to reach almost 65 percent by 2020. The success of smartphones is even more impressive, with most Cambodian Internet users estimated to possess one. As such, some banking establishments are moving to invest in online banking platforms rather than local physical branches.
This is the case for ANZ Royal, the Cambodian arm of the Australia-based bank present in Cambodia since 2005. Grant Knuckey, the CEO of ANZ Royal, explains how the bank invested more than $10 million to launch an enhanced version of its first Internet banking platform in 2014. ANZ Royal’s online banking system is fully compatible with mobile phones and iPads, ruling out the need to develop an application, or app. “We expect the majority of our clients to be on this platform within the next three years,” Knuckey says.
“ IN FIVE YEARS, BANKING WILL HAVE CHANGED AND THIS WILL BE A LONG-TERM PAYOFF BUT IT IS A MUCH CLOSER AND TIGHTER BANKING RELATIONSHIP. ”
-Grant Knuckey,CEO, Chairman, ANZ Royal
“Contrary to traditional banking functions, our Internet banking can cover payroll, basic multiple account relationships, trade finance transactions, as well as multiple layers of delegation for the staff, which is a big issue in terms of security and task division between authorises employees.”
While conceding that ANZ Royal’s financial investment in the online system was the equivalent of creating about 20 physical branches, Knuckey says the tradeoff is necessary to stay ahead of the game. “In five years, banking will have changed and this will be a long-term payoff but it is a much closer and tighter banking relationship,” he says.
Knuckey says that operators who have implemented the new system have seen accounts payable processing times reduce by more than 50%, overtime outgoings decrease substantially, and courier costs eliminated.
A Unique Opportunity in the Mobile Banking Sector
As more banks move toward online banking platforms, one actor is definitely skipping this step to move directly to mobile banking. The money transfer company WING, created in 2009 as another ANZ service, is the leader in the small sum transactions. While there are about a million small businesses and retail shops using WING on a regular basis, more microfinance institutions (MFIs) are using it as well.
Ultimately, WING’s goal is to turn Cambodia into a cashless society.
-Anthony Perkins, CEO, WING
“We are the company with the best distribution network and technology to sit in between all these financial businesses as our expertise is to get money from A to B via mobile,” says WING CEO Anthony Perkins. “We do loan collections for banks and for about 20 MFIs, for example. We process millions of dollars for them so they do not have to build any branches.”
“Cambodia is in this unique position where non-cash products (bank cards etc.) are not successful. WING is not going to do Internet banking but everything will be mobile”, he says. Ultimately, WING’s goal is to turn Cambodia into a cashless society.
And, for ANZ Royal, which first launched its corporate banking portal to serve international clients, convincing Cambodians to take their transactions online has been a great victory.
“Taking Cambodian companies from manual accounting to a corporate banking portal is a big evolution. It is not really feasible for a customer with no experience in managing their own financials in an electronic way to use such a platform though,” Knuckey says.
But with 74% of their online bankers being Cambodian, ANZ Royal has shown that old habits are changing.
Words by Clothilde le Coz