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Asiamoney best bank awards 2018: Cambodia


Best domestic bank: Campu Bank

Best corporate and investment bank: SBI Royal Securities

Best international bank: CIMB

Best digital bank: ABA Bank

Best bank for SMEs: Campu Bank

Best bank for CSR: Maybank

Award winners

Best domestic bank: Campu Bank

Best Bank for SMEs: Campu Bank

 Tan Sri Dato' Sri Dr Teh Hong Piow

Banking in Cambodia can be tough. It’s a small, developing market and there are a lot of banks; 43 commercial banks are registered with the central bank. And that does not include a longer list of specialized sector-focused banks and microfinanciers.

Rumours about their varying levels of financial health are rife. In the course of four days of meetings in the capital, Asiamoney hears off-the-record whispers about the supposedly parlous state of at least six banks.

Notably, Campu Bank was not one of them. After 26 years in Cambodia, the Malaysian-owned bank enjoys a level of trust and respect that is the envy of its rivals. Malaysia’s famously frugal Public Bank has brought the same level of caution that it applies to its SME-centred business at home to building its Phnom Penh-based offshoot under local chair Teh Hong Piow.

Campu’s non-performing loan ratio in 2018 came in at 0.6% in its $1 billion-plus loan book. That’s well below what it describes as its own tolerance level of 1%, and comfortably below the industry average of 2.4%.

Cambodian banks like to win business with lucky draws, with extravagant prizes such as new condos, cars, motorbikes or tech gadgets. But Campu eschews such frippery and concentrates on the stuff that matters. Customer deposits jumped 37.7% to $1.63 billion in 2017, which Campu says reflects the public’s confidence in its reputation.

With assets of $2.1 billion, Campu is the largest of the foreign-owned banks in Cambodia. But it functions as a local Cambodian bank, albeit with the knowledge that a foreign owner stands behind it. And has been doing so since 1992, when the country was still under United Nations rule. From a one-branch bank back then, Campu now has 31 branches across the country, and almost all of the 862 employees are Cambodian.

Campu says its pre-tax profit of $58.87 million for 2017 was driven by stronger loans growth, lower-cost deposits and prudent cost management.

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Best corporate and investment bank: SBI Royal Securities

 Shuzo Shikata

Shuzo Shikata’s SBI Royal Securities wins this award for its almost single-handed contribution to the emergence of a Cambodian capital market, notably its fledgling stock market.

Six years after its launch in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian Stock Exchange has just six listings, five of shares plus one bond. Three of the six listings came about through the efforts of Japanese-owned SBI Royal Securities.

The bond issue, by Cambodia’s third-largest micro-financier Hattha Kaksekar, was added while Asiamoney was in Phnom Penh and is an important step for this tiny market.

It took Shikata a year to get the Hattha Kaksekar deal away. The three-year 8.5% bond issue was anchored by the World Bank’s International Finance Corp, with local investors chipping in as well.

Importantly for a dollarized economy trying to generate confidence in its own currency, the bond was in riel and raised CR20 billion ($30 million).

True, that’s a long way in tone and total from the $300 million raised by Cambodian casino operator NagaCorp in May out of Hong Kong, the first time an issuer from Cambodia had ventured into the offshore markets.

But if Phnom Penh is going to make it in the finance business and have its own functioning capital markets, the history books will be citing SBI’s underwriting of the first-ever riel corporate bond inside Cambodia as the benchmark.

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Best international bank: CIMB

 Bun Yin

This award could be as much a lifetime achievement gong for CIMB Cambodia boss Bun Yin as it is for the Malaysian-owned bank he has run since 2015. Indeed, the mere fact that he is alive to accept it is achievement enough, with this country’s tragic history. Born in 1956, Yin survived the Khmer Rouge genocide as a 19-year-old to become the banker he always wanted to be, and one well respected by competitors, peers and staff alike.

That’s evident from the low staff turnover at his bank. The attrition rate in Cambodia’s financial sector is 11%. Indeed, during meetings with bankers in Phnom Penh, Asiamoney was often asked if we knew of any suitable candidates for hire. But under the popular Yin’s tutelage, CIMB measures its staff turnover at 6.42%.

Yin keeps his loan book under scrutiny too: CIMB’s non-performing loans ratio is 0.19%, against total loans just shy of $504 million, and well below the industry average of 2.4%.

Loans and deposits grew by 30% and 33% respectively this year at CIMB, and the bank expects profits of $14 million for the full year.

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Best digital bank: ABA Bank

 Askhat Azhikhanov

This Kazakh-managed, Canadian-owned Cambodian bank prides itself on its modernity. Its app and online banking functions are regarded by competitors as the industry benchmark in Phnom Penh, and customers seem to agree.

ABA’s youthful chief executive Askhat Azhikhanov claims active users of his app grew from 84,000 in October 2017 to 198,000 a year later.

“Self-banking,” as he calls it, be it through the app, ATMs or ABA’s website, now accounts for 91% of the bank’s transactions, some 45% in dollar value.

“Basic services are delivered through an infrastructure that is modern in every way,” he says.

ABA has advanced payments systems within its mobile app, allowing customers to use their smartphones to pay for items such as groceries and meals at the point of sale, or through scanning to the vendor via the ABA Pay feature.

Importantly, as the central National Bank of Cambodia mandates that a basic 10% of the country’s money supply must be in local riel, Azhikhanov claims his ATM network – which he says is the second largest in Cambodia – already has functionality in both dollars and riel.

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Best bank for CSR: Maybank

 Dato' Mohd Hanif Suadi

Few countries in Asia are as in need of an enlightened corporate culture as Cambodia, with its tragic history and lost generations.

Guided by its mission of ‘Humanizing financial services,’ Maybank aims to treat sustainability as a basic part of its business.

Its CSR programmes seek to empower Cambodia’s most vulnerable groups, notably women and children, via community programmes in education, financial inclusion, economic empowerment and health.

Maybank Cambodia’s child sponsorship programme takes kids, often orphans, from urban slums and puts them in the care of 300 staff volunteers who act as mentors, confidants and teachers.

The bank cites one such child, Yann Veasna, who has been sponsored by the bank since 2013. Thanks to the bank’s programme, he learned English, was put through college and in 2018 graduated from a local university in banking and finance – en route to a career in banking. Maybank has more than 50 children in such programmes and holds financial literacy days for 1,000 child attendees.

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