The CamTech Summit 2023 was an opportunity for industry leaders to highlight the leading trends in the technology sector and fintech is a crucial burgeoning space for Cambodia.
We spoke with Mastercard Country Manager, Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos, Winnie Wong, and Connie Cheng, Vice President of Innovation Management, Asia Pacific about this space and how tech trends are shaping financial inclusion.
The Digital Technology Strategic Plan 2023-2027 acts as the blueprint for Cambodia’s digital transformation. We asked Mastercard’s Country manager how they align their digital payments strategy with this blueprint to support Cambodia’s digital transformation.
“Our digital payments strategy in Cambodia is in full alignment with the country’s Digital Technology Strategic Plan 2023-2027. We are deeply committed to supporting Cambodia’s digital transformation journey and at the heart of our approach is to create a safe, simple, smart, and inclusive digital economy,” said Winnie Wong.
“We leverage our innovations and solutions to help individuals, financial institutions, governments, and businesses realise their greatest potential. Our participation in the CamTech Summit underlines these commitments, especially our focus on driving digital financial inclusion and fostering innovation in line with Cambodia’s digital ambitions,” she added.
Wong mentioned that the key to their strategy is strategic partnerships with local financial institutions, fintech firms, and government entities. “Through these collaborations, we introduce and expand advanced digital payment solutions that align with the objectives of Cambodia’s digital strategy.”
She also added that Mastercard gives “top priority to enhancing the security of digital transactions, aligning with Cambodia’s goal of improving national security and transparency. We are also incorporating digital identity and biometrics solutions into our strategy to enhance transaction security, efficiency, and access to financial services.”
Digital Payments In Cambodia – Encouraging Financial Inclusion
The digital payments space in the Kingdom has become ultra-competitive. We asked what Mastercard doing to enhance financial inclusion and independence for the local Cambodian population.
Wong told B2B Cambodia, “Digital payments are instrumental in promoting financial inclusion, granting millions of Cambodians access to formal financial services. This is particularly impactful for vulnerable groups, including women and rural communities, as it provides them with access to essential digital financial tools, services, and support, ultimately narrowing the wealth and opportunity gap and empowering individuals to secure a more financially stable future.”
Furthermore, she says that digital payments “streamline transactions, reducing the need for physical cash handling”, adding that this efficiency “benefits both individuals and businesses, facilitating quicker, more convenient, and secure financial transactions.”
Wong said a prime example of this is Mastercard’s partnership with Sathapana Bank, which has introduced innovations like Tap on Phone to Cambodia, benefiting up to 200,000 SMEs by enabling safe and seamless transactions through their smartphones.
She added, “Recent Cambodian government data revealed a significant increase in bank deposits in Cambodia, reaching USD $44.6 billion, which serves as a testament to the growing trust in the financial sector. This trust is pivotal in encouraging savings and investment, which are fundamental for both economic growth and individual financial well-being.”
Wong concluded, “At Mastercard, we are committed to leveraging our expertise to collaborate with government bodies, aiming to understand how we can contribute to further facilitate and actively support Cambodia’s journey towards a digitally empowered future.”
Cambodia’s Financial Innovation Via Digital Payments
Wong is confident in Cambodia’s adaptiveness post-COVID. “Since the pandemic, Cambodia has demonstrated an impressive ability to adapt to and embrace digital connectivity. One of the most striking indicators of this shift is the significant reduction in the number of unbanked individuals.
In 2017, 83% of Cambodia’s population was financially excluded, but by 2022, that number had dropped to 30 per cent. These statistics are complemented by Cambodia’s average GDP growth of 5 per cent,” said Wong.
She concurs that this rapid transition, coupled with a digitally connected population, “highlights Cambodia’s remarkable progress. It’s particularly noteworthy as Cambodians increasingly use digital payment systems in the broader regional context, which is expected to further stimulate economic growth.”
In conclusion, Wong said, “Overall, Cambodia’s progress in financial innovation and digital inclusion is not just encouraging but also pioneering. With a continued emphasis on technological adoption, strategic partnerships, and inclusive policies, we foresee even more remarkable advancements in the near future. Mastercard is proud to be a part of this journey, aligning with our global commitment to bring 1 billion people into the digital economy by 2025.”
The Move To A Cashless Society
Connie Cheng, when asked how a cashless society is evolving within Southeast Asia (fast-tracked by cross-border payments and QR codes), “It’s already happening in a very organic way, following the same path that smartphone penetration and internet usage is going,” she said.
“The pandemic had already ushered in the normalcy of using QR codes for both payment and non-payment use cases, thereby creating more trust and familiarity. The cross-border QR linkage across countries will only bolster this confidence as consumers will get to experience even more expanded use cases outside of their daily norm. The ability to seamlessly use one’s native payment methods in another country without having to do a manual exchange is a convenience that would be welcomed by tourists.
On the most noticeable trends post-pandemic and what the biggest opportunities were in the short to medium term, Cheng said “The most noticeable trends are the increase in use of digital wallets for payment, as well as the advances in the various forms of digital payment. People have increased their usage of QR codes, contactless, and biometric payments.”
On the potential, she expanded, “As such, the opportunities lie in the way by which these digital payment modes can be woven more seamlessly into day-to-day transactions along with value-added services – imagine adding early components of biometric security and personalised recommendations to your daily commute.”
For Cambodia, she thinks this means “the rise of digital payments is a major financial inclusion driver in emerging markets, including Cambodia – using data to help institutions in making lending/ credit decisions is a major growth enabler, digital payments channels also help small businesses to reach more customers.”
What Are The Risks Of Going Cashless?
A hybrid use of digital payments and cash would seem to be the norm, and Cheng added it will be “until we get to a universal smartphone penetration and internet usage.”
She added, “And this goes for both the consumer and merchant ends of the equation. Now the risks of a cashless society would be dependent on how the cashless systems are set up. As with all digital systems, they need to be fortified enough to protect privacy as well as robust and resilient enough to withstand cyber-attacks.”
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