Cambodian Banking Leaps Forward



Cynthia Liaw, CEO of Maybank Cambodia, is a Singaporean national with over 20 years experience in the banking, credit and finance industry. Coming to Cambodia just this year, Liaw is the nation’s first ever female bank CEO.

When B2B Cambodia enquired about this honour, Liaw was enthusiastic: “Women are bringing new perspectives to male-dominated industries around the world, and I hope that through this new position I can become a small symbol for Cambodian women that anything is possible now.” Still, Liaw suggests, more work needs to be done to redefine gender roles in the business sphere, not just in Cambodia but across Asia.

The Cambodian banking sector offers something unique and exciting to Liaw, whose career has developed a distinct focus toward conceptualising, designing and perfecting innovative, consumer-centric banking technology.

Over the last few years, the world has changed extremely quickly, explains Liaw. However, this change has not happened as quickly in Cambodia. Nevertheless, Cambodian consumers are exceptionally young, motivated to learn and intimately connected to the wider world through the internet. This means that despite certain lags in their country’s development, the average young Cambodian’s conceptual understanding of the modern world is perfectly up to date.

Liaw, in her role as a banking service provider, can leapfrog early stages of growth in Cambodia that other countries have had to progress through. “Cambodian youth will automatically use internet banking,” attests Liaw, “they will use apps as fast as you can make them and they will expect them to be integrated with social media. They want and demand regional services and they are almost entirely mobile, connected to the world by the wrist—they don’t even need desktop services.”

To demonstrate, Liaw takes her smartphone from her handbag and opens the Maybank app. She then proceeds to send her teenage son, who is currently a student in Singapore, lunch money for the day. “This makes being a mother very easy,” laughs Liaw.

Without the conservatism that Liaw has seen in other markets, she is confident that Maybank will be able to offer state of the art, innovative banking solutions to Cambodians immediately. In fact, she doubts Cambodian consumers would accept anything less. Liaw and her team at Maybank want to offer a range of solutions to this savvy new generation that will not only help individuals but businesses, particularly the small- to medium-sized Cambodian entrepreneurs, manage, grow and maximise their businesses.

However, this openness to innovation that is present in the Cambodian marketplace can sometimes veer toward naivety in some respects. In Liaw’s Singaporean experience, the youth have no expectation of internet privacy. They were born online for the world to see, and they have never questioned the safety of this, like the last generation did, and still does to some degree.

This ethos flows through to online banking, in which they also seem to show no trepidation. This can be problematic as youth may not take necessary precautions when they bank online. To deal with this issue in Singapore, Maybank implemented educational programs and seminars to teach youths how and why they need to protect their banking security online. In Cambodia, this educational aspect will also be made centre stage, says Liaw. The consumer will learn to protect themselves, but the apps will also be intuitively secure.

Keep an eye on Maybank for the latest banking innovations: their newest banking app is set for release in Cambodia later this year.


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