Cambodia’s Wing Bank: Art of Becoming ‘Necessary’ — and Creating a Bank for Every Cambodian

Bill Gates once said, “Banking is necessary, but banks are not.” Those words struck a chord with the CEO of Cambodia’s Wing Bank, Han Peng Kwang — who resolved to make his financial institution “necessary”.

Wing Bank Cambodia

Banking started with the Medici family in Italy in the 12th Century. “Since then,” he says, “it has evolved from Bank 1.0 to Bank 4.0 today.” Bank 1.0 is the traditional model with branches as the main access point. Bank 4.0 is embedded, and ubiquitously delivered in real time, via technology. It offers contextual experiences, frictionless engagement, and AI-based advice. The largely digital omni-channel model has no requirements for physical distribution.

Wing Bank has transformed into a phygital bank (phygital means using technology to bridge the digital and physical worlds). The aim is to provide an interactive experience: services offered via brick-and-mortar branches as well as digital channels, such as the Wing mobile app.

Wing Bank serves more than 13 million users, with 500 corporate companies and 10 government agencies using its payroll and disbursement services. The corporate vision is to provide every Cambodian with access to digital solutions to improve their​ daily lives. “We will continue to strive to achieve our vision by constantly enhancing our banking products and services,” says Peng Kwang. “My hope for banking industry in Cambodia as a whole is to embrace the digital transformation of the industry to prepare for Web 3.0 — the third generation of the World Wide Web, decentralized and open, with greater utility for its users.

“Web 3.0 will use AI and machine learning to provide a more personalised user experience. This is to ensure that banks remains relevant to the people, not just banking.”

Digital channels are increasingly popular, and this accelerated during the pandemic. That prompted Wing Bank to fully utilise its existing digital ecosystem to provide easy and frictionless access to finance for customers.

“Just as Wing revolutionised payment and transfer systems were done in the past,” says Peng Kwang, “now that we are a commercial bank, we will now be able to offer custom-built financial solutions for all segments of the Cambodian economy and population — from banked to unbanked, MSMEs to corporates, young to old.”

Uncertainties due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, supply chain issues affecting global economy recovery, and ongoing Covid 19 pressures mean Cambodia must face up to widespread crises.

The Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity, the Wing CEO points out. “Despite the danger we are facing now, we also see the opportunity for Wing Bank to serve underserved and underbanked customers — customers that we were not able to fully serve before due to our limited scope as a specialised bank.

“We are confident that eventually the economy will recover, and Cambodia will come out stronger.”

The IMF has forecasted a Real GDP growth of five percent in 2022, after the strong export performance earlier in the year and nearly 5.5 percent in 2023, supported by the continued recovery of tourism and ongoing policy support.

Wing Bank wanted to time its move into commercial banking during this period to support the country economy and its people. “We want to support the economic activities in all sectors, particularly SMEs and the MSMEs, which are the backbone of the country, to help facilitate the recovery of the economy.”

Wing started operations 13 years ago and has become one of the most trusted brands in Cambodia. “Our vision is to be the ‘Bank for Every Cambodian’ — and that will exactly be what we will be doing. Every segment of society will find a product that is relevant for their needs at Wing Bank.”

The bank believes in financial, gender and digital inclusion. It uses an analytics-based, data-driven strategy to cater to the needs of the population. Customer-centricity is at the heart of Wing Bank, for business decision, products, solutions, and user-experience.

Fintech and digital banking are trending to cater to the demand of increasingly tech-savvy customers. “Wing started as fintech company in 2008,” recalls Peng Kwang, “and we were the pioneer in Cambodia for domestic remittance business.”

Wing Bank customers can pay utility bills, make payments, make free money transfer moneys, remit funds overseas at low charges, top-up phone credit, repay loans, pay insurance premiums, book and pay for transport, make online purchases, and create and use Mastercard and Visa accounts via the Wing Bank App.

Wing Bank has some 100 customer journeys inside the app to enable digital transactions for all segments of Cambodian society, in any currency. A Wing Bank account-holder can live a 100 percent digital life without physical cash. Wing Bank aims to drive financial, gender, and digital inclusion in the days to come.

“We have always led via the introduction of innovative products and services,” the CEO says. “Wing Bank will continue that tradition for the improvement of every Cambodian’s daily life.” The most recent innovation is a first: numberless bank cards that are completely theft-proof. The card comes in multiple variants —metal inlay, biodegradable, or anti-bacterial.

Also launched are Quick Loans and Quick Cash Advance, which give customers loan decisions in less than five minutes. Advanced decisioning engines and processes at the back end further speed the process. Attractive rates are offered for savings and term-deposit accounts, and Wing Bank uses every transaction to build a credit history for customers. This brings them closer to eligibility for a collateral-free and instant loan in the future.

“We truly believe that all these advances will drive financial inclusion in Cambodia. We have opened six branches and will open six more in Q1 2023, and another 12 by Q3 — a total of 24. More are in the pipeline for 2024.”

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