E-banking & Cybersecurity In The Kingdom

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To address the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy population, banks operating in the Kingdom have, over the past five years, developed advanced online banking platforms, and most major banking institutions in the capital now offer good e-banking solutions. Guaranteeing a secure and reliable online experience for their rapidly-expanding user base has become a major concern for these institutions, who are investing heavily in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity, also known as computer security, is the protection of hardware, software, or the information on them, from theft, damage, disruption or misdirection to their services they provide. Some of the most common cybersecurity threats in the Kingdom include phishing scams and ransomware infections.

Although a little hesitant at first, customers are increasingly embracing the new online banking platforms, perceiving them to be more convenient, secure and cost-effective than regular banking options. The worsening traffic in Phnom Penh is also playing a role in the shift, as customers welcome an alternative that allows them to conduct their banking without having to leave the comfort of their homes to drive to the local branch office.

Major players

ABA Bank was also among the first banks to introduce online banking in Cambodia, beginning in 2008 with their iBank service. They have now developed Smart Banking, an overarching online banking solution, comprising a multi-channel platform that gives the customer non-stop, 24/7 access to self-banking. The system provides uninterrupted access to their networks of ATMs, their i-banking and mobile banking solutions, including ECash, a cardless cash withdrawal service. Last year, ABA introduced Corporate iBanking to help companies manage their finances, a service that boosts security by enabling companies to establish multiple levels of authorisation for conducting certain activities. For example, for conducting payments, an accountant may initiate a transaction, but this will not go through until the deputy chairman verifies it, and the chairman approves it.

ANZ Royal was also one of the pioneers of online banking Cambodia, introducing an internet platform in 2010. Their broadening portfolio of online services now include bank account enquiries and statements, credit card enquiries, local and international transfers, bill payments, term deposits and payroll services. In 2012, the bank introduced ANZ Transactive (TA), offering corporate, institutional and commercial clients digital solutions and a single entry point for cash management, liquidity, trade and market requirements, together with a consolidated view of their financial position.

Maybank Cambodia has offered internet banking services since 2012. Besides viewing their account balance and transaction history online for both account and card transactions, customers can also transfer funds (within Maybank and to all banks in Cambodia), send money overseas and pay bills. They can also withdraw money from a Maybank ATM without an actual ATM or debit card: they simply initiate a request for “cardless withdrawal” using the mobile and online banking services. For business users, the bank offers Maybank2E, a regional cash management service that allows the online management of information, payables, receivables and liquidity. This service is also available on iOS, Android and Window’s mobile devices, allowing business users to do banking on the go. This is extremely useful for bosses to view and approve payment transactions when they are outside their office.

Acceptance

“Customer response to our internet banking has been very encouraging,” says Cynthia Liaw, CEO of Maybank Cambodia. For the Singaporean banking expert, the success of their online banking platform is enabled by Cambodia’s tech-loving Generation Y, which is already enamoured with Facebook, LINE, and other social media platforms. Additionally, 94 percent of Cambodians now own a mobile phone, according to the Asia Foundation, so the interest in smartphones and smart apps is there. “It also helps that 4G data connectivity offered by local telecom companies is extremely good in most parts of Cambodia at affordable rates,” she adds.

Cynthia Liaw, Maybank Cambodia

ABA Bank customers have also embraced the bank’s offer of online services. Zokhir Rasulov, its Chief Marketing Officer, notes that around 50 percent of their customer base are actively using their online banking services. “We see their acceptance as being extremely good,” he asserts. “It’s not only foreigners who are using our remote banking services; Khmer people are also actively embracing them.”

Challenges

Despite the growing acceptance of online platforms, insiders say there are still a number of challenges preventing their expansion in Cambodia. The ANZ Royal management team comments that many Cambodians still mistakenly believe that online banking is more risky than banking at a branch office. “This is incorrect and we have introduced a series of fraud seminars to explain the security enhancements provided by our online banking platform and help our clients understand the technology behind this”, they add.

Computer and online illiteracy lies at the core of this misconception, creating a problem that needs to be taken seriously. “E-banking solutions and online competency need to go hand in hand. An imbalance of these two aspects will cause either a surge in internet identity theft and fraud, or lost opportunities for local businesses to capitalise on the demand for online solutions,” states ANZ Royal.

ANZ Royal is not the only bank striving to increase online literacy in Cambodia. ABA is investing heavily in educating its customer base on technology-related matters. “We realised that without educating our clients and providing good customer support service, it would be challenging to convince people to start using our online services,” says Rasulov. For this reason, he says, ABA developed a number of educational materials for their clients and trained their frontline sales team. They also set up a 24/7 multi-channel call center, enabling users to get in touch with a bank representative through the phone, social media, and an online chat service on their website, among other channels.

Zokhir Rasulov, ABA Bank

Cybersecurity matters

There are a variety of cybersecurity challenges faced by customers and financial institutions, not only in Cambodia but around the world, ranging from basic data protection issues to phishing scams and advanced hacking of servers and emails.

“Technology and awareness are the key mitigants,” says the ANZ Royal management team. “Even though the safety of consumers online is vastly enhanced through the use of internet banking, there is still a requirement for the consumer to undertake the usual due diligence on password protection, payment details and payee identification.”

To anticipate and counteract cyber-threats and protect customer information, banks offering online banking platforms have adopted a series of proactive measures. The major banking institutions in the country continuously engage with their customers to educate them on the importance of not revealing account information and to teach them how to avoid common phishing scams.

Besides customer education, these banks invest a sizeable amount of their IT budgets in securing their systems and ensuring their customer information is securely encrypted. At Maybank, for example, every digital transaction is secured with a Transaction Authentication Code, a one-time code delivered to the customer’s registered mobile number. This prevents unauthorised transfers and payments through digital channels.

ANZ Royal, meanwhile, uses a dual factor authentication logon for online payments, a system that requires the input of two different passwords. Both ANZ Royal (with TA) and ABA Bank (with Corporate iBanking) employ an authorisation system that allows companies to establish duty segregations within the system, enabling only selected staff to perform certain tasks.

The work of the National Bank

Industry insiders say that these digital initiatives are supported by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), the Kingdom’s central bank and regulator. “[They] understand the trend,” says ABA’s Rasulov.

To ease the expansion and consolidation of Cambodian banks’ digital services, the NBC is preparing to introduce two ambitious programmes. The Fast and Secure Transfer System (FAST), launched April 2016, aims to improve interbank transactions by processing them in real time, and making them safer, faster, more efficient and transparent. This means people  can clear cheques from banks in which they hold no account more quickly, as banks no longer need to bring cheques to the NBC’s clearing house. “It will enable all banks to leapfrog years in payment evolution. It will be a revolution for the banking industry in Cambodia,” says Maybank’s Liaw.

The NBC is also working on the Shared Switch System, an integrated service to facilitate e-payments, such as cash withdrawals through ATMs, payments at point of sale, and mobile and internet payments. The project aims to enhance the effectiveness of payment services and upgrade Cambodian banking to meet the needs of ASEAN financial integration.

E-banking and e-commerce

The development and expansion of e-banking technologies brings new and exciting opportunities for e-commerce, which is flourishing in the Kingdom. “We anticipate that e-commerce will pick up pace in Cambodia soon,” says Liaw. “We will see secure technologies like Verified by Visa deployed, with every transaction being secured by a one-time password that’s delivered via SMS.”

Banks are preparing ahead for this expansion. ABA Bank recently launched its MasterCard Virtual Card service. The user can issue this digital card online, fill to any desired amount, and use until it lasts, or delete it whenever they want. ABA is also planning to launch its own Online Acquiring System this year, an initiative that will allow local merchants to sell their products and services online.

E-banking and e-commerce are concepts that go hand in hand; as one develops so does the other. Now, finally, thanks to the technological advances in online payments and in cybersecurity brought about by the banks’ zeal to develop their digital platforms, it seems that the Kingdom is finally ready to embrace e-commerce.