Money and my Return to the Penh

I recently travelled back to my favourite city, Phnom Penh, to catch-up with old friends and relax for a weekend. But being my usual self I was unable to resist the temptation to just relax, instead opting to explore the success of WING Money in and around the various eco-systems that make up Phnom Penh.

One of my local Khmer friends picked us up from the airport early on the Saturday morning and first impressions were strong, WING Cash Express signs were everywhere on the road between the airport and the city’s tourist centre, River Front. WING was been strong enough that they’ve managed to sign six of the eight Mobile Operators as channel partners, a task no other bank in the world has managed. Leaving off the country’s number one operator; Mobitel who recently launched their own Mobile Money service after receiving a Mobile Money for the unbanked grant from the GSMA MMU Fund. However Mobitel’s number one position is quickly coming under threat as new comer metfone (Viettel) continues to take large chunks of market share right across Cambodia. Mobitel has seen some interesting coverage in the press after self-electing that their service was not banking and did not need oversight from Cambodia’s central bank.

WING has been live now for almost a year and half, and it doesn’t take long to gain and understanding of just how successful their growth has been. While enjoying one of my old favourite food places in street 278, I got talking to Chantou (named changed for privacy), a waitress in an expat distract of Phnom Penh, whose family live in a province a few hours out of Phnom Penh called Kampong Cham. Chantou works two waitressing jobs doing an average of 12 to 14 hours work six days a week to earn enough money to support herself and her family. As the family’s sole bread winner she carries a huge responsibility. She loves working as a waitress mainly because she gets to meet lots of western people (barrangs) who she can practise her English and she likes English men. Until recently Chantou would either travel herself or send money home through Cambodia’s ‘private’ bus system, which on occasions wouldn’t make it to her mother. She tells me WING has been a great help, as she can now send money home directly from her phone. She can also be certain that money is being spent appropriately by directly paying for services, such as pre-paid airtime or electricity bills. Small stories like this warm my heart, as I hear directly from those that benefit from the availability of Mobile FS.

I also had the pleasure of catching up with WING acting Managing Director, David Kleiman, and I was pleased to hear of the progress WING has made over time. WING is now present in all 27 provinces of Cambodia, bringing services to people that previously paid a premium for basic financial services. David welcomes Mobitel’s competition, and feels it will further develop the adoption rates of the country and hopes that Mobitel’s size will help persuade the Central Bank to allowed US Dollar transactions, a key sticking point in an economy dominated by the presence of the Dollar.

If I had more time I would have loved to jump on a dirt bike and head out into the provinces to see WING first had in rural communities, but that that will have to wait for my next trip once I have brushed up on my Khmer language skills. WING will always hold a special place in my heart and I wish the team there all the best for the future.