A sixteen person Laotian delegation with representatives from the Bank of Lao (BOL), commercial banks, microfinance institutions and mobile network companies visited mobile payments providers, a telecommunication company and the National Bank of Cambodia. The study tour was opened by Dr. Akhom Praseuth , Director of Financial Institutions from the Bank of Lao, at WING’s headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
WING launched in 2009 after a year of preparation as a partnership with ANZ Royal Bank. It has now grown to nearly a thousand WING Cash Express outlets across the country, covering 90% of Cambodia's districts and serving over half a million customers. Mr. Perkins, WING's CEO, noted how important it is in Cambodia for clients to get good service, “clients have very little tolerance for outlets that are unable to provide them cash out services. This means we follow our agents very carefully, doing spot checks and spending considerable effort and money on agent management. This is our core business." Participants later visited several WING agents in Phnom Penh, accompanied by WING's Business Performance Manager, Mr. Thiev Viseth. He noted that owners of Express outlets can earn a profit of US$200 to US$4000 per year. “We are careful to select merchants based on population and revenue potential. They must hold $10,000 liquidity and have their shop open 8 hours per day, every day.” Mr. Mr. Soukaseum Souvannachak from Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao (BCEL) commented on the functioning of the agents in performing in person, over-the-counter transactions. “Like the Lao people, the customers here want to see a person. I don’t think they would trust only the mobile phone.”
The delegation later met ACLEDA Bank in Cambodia to learn from their experience in introducing branchless banking. Dr. So Phonnary, Executive Vice President, spent a morning with the delegation discussion ACLEDA's introduction of its first debit cards in 2007 to its mobile banking service launched in 2012. Acleda's "Unity" programme consists of all of its electronic and Dr. Phonnary explained how a phase two of the Unity programme is to attract underserved and "never banked" clients through use of mobile wallets. She noted that they've introduced cardless cash withdrawals for their ATMs to allow for mobile transfer recipients to withdraw funds without going to an ACLEDA branch. Mr. Bouasone Outhaithip of Lao Telkom noted the important role of the bank in providing these services and the importance of having a strong partnership with a bank. ACLEDA is Cambodia's largest bank in terms of clients and provides guidance and technical support to ACLEDA Bank Laos which has not yet introduced mobile banking. ACLEDA Laos is supported by UNCDF.
The group will spend two more days in Phnom Penh to meet with one of the major telecommunications companies and officials from the National Bank of Cambodia. The study tour was organized by UNCDF with the support of the Agency for International Development (AusAID) as part of their efforts to support the development of mobile financial services in Lao PDR.
Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P) is a global programme funded by UN Capital Development Fund, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and is managed by UNCDF Brussels. The programme provides support to branchless and mobile financial services in a select group of LDCs to demonstrate how the correct mix of financial, technical and policy support can build a robust branchless and mobile financial services ecosystem that reaches low in-come people in LDCs.