Rural financial services access to ‘BCOME' reality

Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) is extending its services through a new product “BCOME” which will help provide poor rural families with greater access to appropriate financial services such as transferring their money.

BCEL Community Money Express (BCOME) has been achieved through cooperation between the Bank of the Lao PDR, BCEL and MAFIPP (Making Access to Finance more Inclusive for Poor People – a 4 year joint UNCDF sector programme) supported by the Australian government providing technical assistance to financial services operators to develop a business case and pilot service.

Deputy Managing Director of BCEL, Mr Nanthalath Keopaseuth said at the recent BCEL official launch that the new service would help rural people transfer money more conveniently through the bank's agents who showed the new logo in their community.

For example, people in rural areas can transfer money to their families anytime through a smartphone, tablet and computer or utilise over the counter services at the bank's local agents. Customers transferring money just need to fill in sender and receiver account numbers and are then issued a confirmation for the transaction.

“This service will help people to save money and travelling time rather than transferring money at the bank,” Mr Nanthalath explained.

At present, most financial services from banks focus on larger towns which rural people can't access, so Vice President of the Bank of the Lao PDR, Ms Vathana Dalaloy believed BCOME could respond to the people's needs.

BCOME is also much safer for rural people compared to transferring money via the black market that often involves exorbitant charges.

“Access to financial services can help poor people and rural families set up small businesses and save in case of illness or disaster, so it will be necessary to extend the frontiers of markets to low-income households,” according to Charge d' Affaires of Australia Embassy to Laos, Mr Dave Vosen.

Through BCOME becoming available within a village, there is no need to go to the district town to deposit or withdraw cash, to make payments or transfer funds. Digital financial services are a new frontier and encouraging the commercial sector in Laos to participate and engage for the benefit of society. BCOME is launching pilot projects with 10 of the banks' agents in Vientiane and Vientiane province before it will be extended to other provincial rural areas.