Bank­ing service deemed poor

EU should ‘re­unite’: busi­ness groups

The Phnom Penh Post - - BUSINESS - Kali Ko­to­ski

WHILE Cam­bo­dia’s crowded bank­ing sec­tor has en­joyed strong growth, the ma­jor­ity of con­sumers sur­veyed have cited dis­sat­is­fac­tion with bank­ing ser­vices as a main im­ped­i­ment for the sec­tor’s con­fi­dence and fu­ture growth.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey pre­sented at the eighth an­nual Bank­ing and Mi­cro­fi­nance Awards on Fri­day showed that 70 per cent of con­sumers be­lieved that over­all service was lack­ing. The study fo­cused not only on day-to-day branch service – which scored low for staff qual­ity – but also ATM in­fra­struc­ture and dig­i­tal bank­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“Banks need to serve the peo­ple and teach them how to spend, in­vest and save smarter,” said Tam Le, CEO of In­ter­na­tional Data Group ASEAN, the event’s or­gan­iser.

While the sur­vey said that call cen­tre ser­vices could help al­le­vi­ate some of the frus­tra­tions, most peo­ple claimed that when they en­tered a branch with a par­tic­u­lar ques­tion, the staff was un­able to pro­vide as­sis­tance.

“Branch ser­vices are knowl­edge­able,” said Le.

“For ex­am­ple, if a cus­tomer wants to up­grade a card from debit to credit to in­crease on­line pay­ments, the cus­tomer service doesn’t have the an­swers for that process.”

Staff qual­ity was not meet­ing cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions, Le told not bankers at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence in Ph­nom Penh.

“The hu­man re­source power is lack­ing,” he said.

“You need to train peo­ple to be able to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices. The banks in Cam­bo­dia need to think of con­sol­i­dat­ing their cus­tomer ser­vices and train­ing op­er­a­tions.”

The study noted that cus­tomers want banks to not only up­grade their ATM in­fra­struc­ture, but also to make sure the machines are well stocked with cash.

Tom Mizukoshi, chief IT of- fi­cer for For­val (Cam­bo­dia), a com­pany that pro­vides tech­ni­cal sup­port and maintenance for the bank­ing sec­tor, ex­plained that banks need to put large in­vest­ments into scal­ing up hu­man re­sources – some­thing that they are of­ten re­luc­tant to do.

As an al­ter­na­tive, he said banks could ei­ther con­sol­i­date ser­vices or out­source the ma­jor­ity of bank­ing op­er­a­tions.

“Con­sol­i­dat­ing al­lows for faster sales and more ac­cu­racy, he said.

“And it frees up ex­ist­ing sales staff to give more time to cus­tomers.”

This, Mizukoshi added, is in­stru­men­tal for re­tail bank pen­e­tra­tion into ru­ral ar­eas, a sec­tor long dom­i­nated by mi­cro­fi­nance in­sti­tu­tions.

“To me, wher­ever a bank has a po­ten­tial cus­tomer, they need to go to them,” he said. “It doesn’t mat­ter how far away they are.”

Thorsten Neu­mann, manag­ing direc­tor of SmartPesa, a Sin­ga­porean fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany that made its mark by pen­e­trat­ing un­touched ar- eas of cen­tral Africa, ex­plained that the num­ber of branches and ATMs in a coun­try is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion of fi­nan­cial de­vel­op­ment.

“There are 2,380 ATM machines and 1.5 mil­lion cards in cir­cu­la­tion [in Cam­bo­dia.] That’s a lot of cards, but it also means you can’t re­ally use them any­where,” he said, ar­gu­ing that cus­tomers here are “com­pletely un­der-banked”.

Neu­mann added that with Cam­bo­dia’s cur­rent in­fra­struc­ture, re­tail banks would have to play a wait­ing game be­fore they could reach full mar­ket po­ten­tial.

“What that means is that Cam­bo­dia needs to ur­banise be­fore it can ben­e­fit from fi­nan­cial ser­vices,” he said. “So the real ques­tion is how to leapfrog the in­fra­struc­ture prob­lem.”

He pro­posed an agency bank­ing so­lu­tion, where third par­ties can han­dle ser­vices with limited costs, but which can pro­vide a full list of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts.

“[Banks] may have a lot of cus­tomers, but they have no per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions. This is one rea­son why I say that if you use the cur­rent banks and agency bank­ing, you can cre­ate those re­la­tion­ships,” he said, adding that this would help build fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy.

“The so­lu­tion is to em­ploy third par­ties that can han­dle your ser­vices with limited costs,” he added. BUSI­NESS groups in France and Ger­many yes­ter­day said EU na­tions should re­spond to Bri­tain’s de­ci­sion to quit the bloc by work­ing even more closely to­gether to limit the “tur­bu­lence” caused by the Brexit shock.

In an joint ap­peal pub­lished in the French Jour­nal du Di­manche, the heads of Ger­many’s pow­er­ful BDI and BDA in­dus­try groups and the pres­i­dent of France’s MEDEF em­ploy­ers’ fed­er­a­tion made the case for stronger po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

“Europe must re­unite, re­cover its con­fi­dence and go on the of­fen­sive,” wrote the pres­i­dents of the three groups, Ul­rich Grillo, Ingo Krame and Pierre Gat­taz.

Not­ing that the out­come of Thurs­day’s ref­er­en­dum in Bri­tain had plunged the bloc into “an area of tur­bu­lence”, the in­dus­try group lead­ers said the Franco-Ger­man mo­tor of the Euro­pean project was “more than ever in­dis­pens­able . . . to re­gain its strength”.

They also called for “im­me­di­ate, cred­i­ble and vis­i­ble mea­sures to strengthen the gov­er­nance” of the euro area and said their coun­tries should pur­sue “na­tional re­forms to make our economies stronger and more com­pet­i­tive to as­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of our so­cial model”.

PHA LINA

A man ex­its an ATM on Norodom Boule­vard in cen­tral Ph­nom Penh last month. ATM in­fra­struc­ture and staff qual­ity both scored poorly in a re­cent con­sumer sur­vey of the bank­ing in­dus­try.

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