Growth for digital cash

Central Bank officials are urging more commercial banks to take up electronic banking.

A number of institutions including Co-operative, Ayeyarwady, Innwa and Myawaddy have formally launched banking via computers or mobiles so far in 2014, and more banks should do the same, said a senior Central Bank of Myanmar official.

Rules governing bank-led mobile banking were passed in December 2013, partly in an effort to bring unbanked people into the formal banking sector.

Although the services are still in their infancy, insiders see lots of potential for electronically transferring money, paying bills and checking balances, reducing the need for bricks-and-mortar bank branches.

The official also said that there are only rules permitting a “bank-led” model at present, meaning the bank, not an outside company, must be accountable for the money.

“We haven’t had any problems with losing money so far as only banks are allowed to operate these services,” he said.

Banks have to receive specific approval for each new e-banking product they attempt to bring to market as well as take appropriate risk management steps, he said.

E-money also reduces the needs to print money as well as makes circulation easier.

Co-operative Bank executive vice chair U Kyaw Lynn said the bank currently has logistical challenges of putting billions of kyat into its 200 cash machines every week.

“We hope to have a better network and IT system soon,” he said. “Even though we have to wait for the circle rotating on the screen of our mobiles [indicating that a page is loading], we started out with ATMs and have gradually progressed,” he said.

Co-operative Bank, often branded as CB Bank, formally launched its mobile banking service last week.

While some countries have had to wait 30 years to have a mix of 80 percent of transactions done electronically and 20pc done with cash, Myanmar should be able to reach the target much quicker, he said.

Still, only 526,000 people, or about 1pc of the population, have ATM cards, he said.

Bankers claim their online offerings are slowing gaining traction.

U Myo Yi Win, head of Ayeyarwady Bank’s internet banking, said it has about 2000 customers.

“We haven’t faced any big problems with our network and are constantly upgrading,” he said.


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