World Bank Report Says Few Cambodians Using Bank Accounts

Only 3.7 percent of Cambodia’s 14 million people have bank accounts with a financial institution, while less than 1 percent of those with an account are actually using them to save money, according to a World Bank report released Tuesday.

Though the World Bank’s Global Financial Development Report for 2014 underscores how far Cambodia still is from providing financial services to its wider population, bankers on Monday disputed the figures and said many more people in the country had accessed banking services since 2011.

According to the report, the percentage of Cambodians with a bank account is the same as in Yemen, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“[Forty-three] percent of account holders worldwide saved at a formal financial institution in 2011. This ratio ranged from less than 1 percent in Ar­menia, Cam­bodia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to more than 60 percent in Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden,” the report says.

Regionally, the percentage of Cambodia’s population with a bank account is far behind that of Singapore (98.2), Thailand (72.7), Malaysia (66.2), Laos (26.8), Vietnam (21.4) and Indonesia (19.6).

Though it is true that Cambodians as a whole have limited trust or knowledge of banks, the financial sector here has been growing at a fast clip. Both deposits and the amount of credit being handed out in the banking sector have risen sharply in recent years as banks from all over the world pour into the sector.

Grant Knuckey, CEO of ANZ Royal, said Monday he disagreed with the World Bank’s figure on the number of account holders in the country.

“The current figure in terms of percentage of the population with an account at a formal financial institution is in excess of 10 percent now,” he said.

Mr. Knuckey also said the number of ANZ Royal customers with a savings account far exceeds the 1 percent stated in the report.

“ANZ Royal has far more than that number by itself,” he said, declining to give an exact amount.

In Channy, CEO of Acleda Bank, also said his bank has more than 1 million accounts, and that the total amount of money saved by its account holders currently stands at roughly $1.5 billion.

“The World Bank needs to look at the future and see the number of banks coming into the industry. The [percentage] of Cambodians now with a bank account is more like 10 percent,” he said.

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