ANZ Group Launches New Mobile Phone Banking in Cambodia

ANZ Group plans to launch a new mobile phone banking company in Cambodia today, allowing subscribers to send cash over their cell phones, ANZ and government officials said Monday.

Known as Wing, the service allows subscribers to open virtual bank accounts on their cell phones without ever setting foot in a bank, Wing Managing Director Brad Jones said Monday in an interview at the company’s Phnom Penh office on Street 432.

A relatively new phenomenon, mobile banking has only existed since 2005 in the Philippines and since 2007 in Africa.

“This is the first project of this type in Southeast Asia,” Jones said.

Subscribers can deposit money into their accounts by visiting any of Wing’s 70 agents—typically phone retail shops—of which 60 are located in Phnom Penh and 10 are in the provinces of Kompong Speu, Takeo and Kandal.

Once at the Wing shops, a customer dials the Wing service number and types codes or commands into their cell phone depending on whether the desire is to deposit or withdraw funds. Retailers then either dole out or collect the cash, and in turn make a profit from transaction fees, Jones said.

Money transfers to non-Wing customers incur a $1 fee, while transfers to Wing customers incur at most a fee of 1 percent of the transaction value.

Withdrawing money incurs at most a fee of 4 percent of the transaction value.

There is no minimum transaction, but the maximum is $1,000 in any one day, Jones said.

Despite these transfer and withdrawal fees, Jones said the charges will rarely total more than $0.50, which saves subscribers the $2 fee that taxi drivers often charge to transfer money by hand from Phnom Penh to the provinces.

ANZ Group, which also owns a 55 percent stake in ANZ Royal Bank, has invested $5 million in Wing’s startup costs, Jones said.

About 500,000 Cambodians hold commercial bank accounts, and 300,000 hold microfinance bank accounts, Jones said, which leaves out most of Cambodia’s 8.3 million bankable citizens.

Mobile banking, with minimal fees and no deposit requirements, is geared toward low-income customers without means to open standard bank accounts, Jones said.

National Bank Deputy Gover­nor Neav Chanthana, who is expected give the keynote speech at Wing’s launch today, lauded the ability of mobile banking to provide financial services to those without access to standard bank accounts.

“Wing provides our population, no matter where they work in Cambodia, the ability to stay financially linked to their families faster and cheaper than ever before,” Neav Chanthana said Monday.

Wing is currently only functional on Telekom Malaysia Inter­nation­al’s 015 and 016 prefixes, but Jones said the service should be available within three to six months through all mobile providers.

Interconnectivity problems among competing mobile prov­iders will not be an issue, Jones said, because all mobile banking transactions go first through Wing’s central system and then to the respective mobile provider.

A similar mobile phone banking program in Kenya attracted 4 million subscribers within 2 years, Jones said. “We’re very much expecting to be in the tens of thousands of customers by the end of the year,” he said.

Jones said Wing already counts about 50 customers from a two-month pilot program with a Phnom Penh garment factory, the target group for Wing because garment workers constitute a large group without bank accounts that often sends remittances to the provinces.

“They all very much like the convenience factor. They say it saves a lot of time, they don’t have to line up to get paid,” Jones said.

Acleda Bank is also considering creating mobile phone banking for its customers, President and CEO In Channy said Monday.

For now, however, In Channy said this new player in Cambodia’s developing banking sector is no threat to Acleda, which already of­fers convenience with 226 branches in all 24 provinces.

“We have a mature system we can rely on, which gives access to our customers,” he said.

   (Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)


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