Dethroning Cash: Less Than 20 Percent of Adults Use Banks in Cambodia

Internet access is rising across the Asean region, and in Cambodia recently surpassed television as the biggest source of news, but access to financial services, credit cards and bank accounts remains low, according to data released by the World Economic Forum.

At less than 20 percent, Cambodia had the lowest percentage of adults with bank accounts, according to 2014 data, the forum data said.

In Channy, president and group managing director of Cambodia’s Acleda Bank, is seen on a video screen during “Dethroning Cash as King,” a session on Friday’s final day of the World Economic Forum on Asean in Phnom Penh. (Hang Sokunthea/The Cambodia Daily)

That low adoption will make it challenging for the country to take advantage of the possibilities presented by technology, said In Channy, president and group managing director of Cambodia’s Acleda Bank during “Dethroning Cash as King,” a session on Friday’s final day of the Asean edition of the forum in Phnom Penh.

“Consumers need payment solutions that offer multiple choices — ATMS, mobile, cash,” Mr. Channy said.

Timothy Murphy, general counsel for Mastercard, one of the world’s largest credit card companies, offered specific advice for Cambodia’s leadership.

“Governments should lead by adopting cashless payments first,” he said.

Data released on Monday ahead of the forum indicated that confidence in credit cards and other internet banking was significantly higher among the region’s millennials — those 18 to 29 — than those age 30 and older, according to a consumer confidence report by Mastercard.

While the number of people with bank accounts remains low in Cambodia compared to the region, and the country has yet to draft an e-commerce law, cashless payment solutions are rising rapidly anyway, and tech-startups are pushing for a more ubiquitous cashless culture.

Competition for the country’s young digital users with disposable income is especially fierce in the transportation and entertainment sectors.

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