Riel money in the digital era
In the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, promoting electronic payments is considered as a vital tool for payment settlement and promoting financial inclusion. However, the adaptation of financial technology (Fintech) in Cambodia’s banking system is still in its infancy.
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) promotes and facilitates payments within the local market to boost a cashless payment society as well as promoting local currency, the riel.
Fintech is a nascent industry in the Kingdom, with the NBC working to upgrade the regulation that governs the financial sector and striving to reduce the risks of using digital wallets. The development of Fintech, including smartphones and the internet as well as data analysis, has hugely boosted the Kingdom’s financial sector. Last July, to complement the private sector regarding payments and remittances, the NBC launched the pilot Bakong project, a mobile payment application that will bring all payment services providers and banks onto a shared platform, allowing the user to experience fast and affordable services.
The Bakong project, which is expected to be fully launched this year, will provide the backbone of the payment system in the Kingdom, connecting banks and payment service providers. By using the Bakong application/mobile app with banking functions installed on a smartphone, customers of financial institutions can make real-time fund transfers across banks and financial platforms. In addition, it allows users to transfer funds in both riels and US dollars to one another across the platform from anywhere with internet access. It is said to be safe, easy, fast and free with the Bakong platform. Currently, there are 12 financial institutions that have joined the system, including ACLEDA Bank, Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), Wing (Cambodia) Ltd, Specialised Bank, Cambodia Post Bank, Sathapana, Canadia, Chip Mong, AMK and Speed Pay.
Beyond the Bakong project, the NBC has also made other noticeable moves to promote the local currency and financial inclusion through cross-border QR Payment. This initiative has led toward the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the National Bank of Cambodia and Bank of Thailand in February 2019. The MoU aims to promote more efficient cross-border payment transactions as well as the usage of local currencies in the market and has contributed significantly to boost financial inclusion, facilitating cross-border trade activities and the growth of tourism.
A total of 27 banking and financial institutions have been providing internet banking services and 21 banking and financial institutions have been providing mobile banking services, according to NBC’s 2019 report.
The total size of the transactions conducted through internet banking is more than 1.8 million and accounted for 41.1 trillion riel, while the total mobile banking services transactions are 42 million, accounting for 112.5 trillion riel.
Mekong Strategic Partners, an investment management and advisory service firm, has estimated that the digital payment market in Cambodia is set to be worth $3.469 billion this year.