Today we welcome Mr. Chan Kok Choy, who is the general manager and executive director of Cambodia’s Vattanac Bank. Headquartered in the capital, Phnom Penh, the bank has now been in operation for 13 years and is primarily engaged in retail and commercial banking. In addition to the stellar performance of these business units, Vattanac is recognised today in Cambodia and the wider banking industry for its excellence in customer service, as well as its commitment to nurturing home-grown banking talent, which we will be discussing today in more detail.
Mr. Chan, thank you for joining us today…
Let’s begin with some of Vattanac’s broad corporate objectives. If I’m not mistaken, one of the primary ways in which Vattanac seeks to differentiate itself from its competition is through its particular efforts to consistently deliver a high standard of customer service. How does this work practically, in terms of the specific measures the bank has adopted in order to achieve such a high standard?
Since the start of our operations and over the years, we have gained the customer’s confidence and trust through our good customer service. A strong service culture has always been promoted in all aspects of our operations by the directors, managers and staff. The customer-service mission of the bank is to provide excellent customer service to gain customer satisfaction and support. We have won international recognition for our services, but the most important acknowledgement of our success in this aspect is the positive feedback from our customers themselves evidenced by the high ratings they gave us in our electronic feedback system.
Upon induction to the bank, a staff member is given an overview of what customer service means to the bank, including the bank’s standards: “Golden Service”. Everyone at the bank attends a yearly Customer Care Campaign, a gathering at which the past year’s service is assessed and the coming year’s customer-service focus is presented and discussed. Basic and intensive customer-service trainings are given to front-liners, and regular customer-service training on branch levels is also conducted by the senior officers.
The bank invested in an electronic feedback system to monitor the quality of service that we are providing our customers. Our customers key in their feedback in electronic pads placed at all service counters of the bank. The branches can access the data, analyze the results, and then respond to the feedback received.
We have just updated our Customer Feedback Policy and the Customer Service Handbook. Both are reviewed during training and are available on the bank’s intranet for staff reference. The Customer Service Committee at head office works with the Customer Service Sub-Committees in the branches to help strengthen and emphasize quality customer service at all levels. The Customer Service Committee is under Vattanac Bank’s Executive Committee.
Well, that’s certainly lots of evidence of customer-service dedication that you’ve provided there. You also mentioned just then that the Customer Service Committee was based in the head office. This head office was recently relocated to the Vattanac Capital Tower—Phnom Penh’s preeminent skyscraper. Have you noticed any significant benefit from the move so far?
Moving our head office to the new Vattanac Capital Tower, an iconic building that shares our name, was a symbolic and strategic step. The new location represents our progress and the direction we are taking. Our move symbolized our growth to a now noteworthy “safe and sound” bank. Our move was strategic in that it gave us more prominence and prestige in the community—especially in the eyes of our current and potential customers. To some extent it has heightened awareness and recognition that we are a modern and growing local bank, here to stay.
The opening of the main office at the same Vattanac Capital address established our presence in the upscale environment of the Vattanac Capital Mall. It provided a modern environment for us to provide a better customer-service experience through improved premier banking services, and an opportunity to feature our new seven-day banking services and extended banking hours.
Yes, I imagine that being based in such a prestigious location helps Vattanac to distinguish itself from the competition. But just how competitive is the commercial-banking space in Cambodia, and how challenging has it been for Vattanac to grow its own commercial-banking operation during the bank’s 13 years in business?
We are a 100-percent Cambodian-owned bank. We are in our 13th year—quite young as an institution—and have grown steadily over the years and have gained a good reputation for customer service. It has not been easy. We had to build a strong foundation and develop the much-needed IT infrastructure, policies, procedures and guidelines. We had to comply not only to National Bank of Cambodia’s standards but also to international standards.
Now, in the increasingly competitive Cambodian banking environment, we need to balance between risks and returns to ensure sustainable growth. With the entry of new banks, we are currently challenged by the undercutting of rates and staff-pinching. We know we need to continue to innovate, yet we also need to remain pragmatic in our approaches. Our measures need to be both proactive and reactive, allowing for flexibility to respond to the demands of the industry.
Indeed, it certainly seems that the “need to continue to innovate” that you mention is of particular importance to Vattanac, especially as one of your stated corporate objectives is “to offer innovative products with excellent service delivery to meet customers’ needs”. Are there any particular innovative products that you’ve introduced recently that you would like to mention?
The recent introduction of the stored value card, the implementation of EMV, and the upcoming rollouts of MasterCard and Union Pay Card (in addition to Visa cards) are designed to provide secured alternatives to our customers. Our seven-day banking and extended banking hours at our main office are trailblazers for us and for competitors—offering easy access to personal-banking services for our customers. We have introduced Internet banking, which makes it more convenient to do banking when everything is within reach anytime and almost anywhere. Mobile banking will be implemented by the fourth quarter of 2016.
Yes, mobile banking and other forms of digital banking now seem to be a key focus for banks globally. Do you see Vattanac Bank making much progress in digital banking going forward?
We have taken big steps towards digital banking. We believe that this is the way to go in order to be responsive to the customers’ needs and demands. We are sensitive to banking trends and are aware of the technology that comes with new developments in banking.
We have invested in building a good IT infrastructure, including the core-banking system and its comprehensive suite of products, and we have the right people that can propel us into Cambodia’s digital-banking phase. We have introduced Internet banking and will promote it more aggressively this year. We will be adding mobile banking to our array of services by the end of this year.
Cambodia is getting ready for the implementation of Public Key Infrastructure in 2017. Vattanac Bank is an active supporter of the national project since this will impact the security of transactions over the Internet.
One area in which Vattanac Bank tends to stand out is its emphasis on encouraging the hiring of local Cambodian staff. How important do you think this focus on local investment is in building trust with your customer base?
The bank has confidence in the capacity and capability of Cambodians. We now have 341 Cambodian staff (and several expatriates). The bank believes in investing in local staff and therefore puts focus on providing them adequate training so they can render quality service to the bank.
Are you currently satisfied with the level of internal employee training being implemented by the bank?
In 2015 we had 26 internal-training and 61 external-training sessions all designed to build the staff’s capacity and keep them abreast with current trends and practices in the banking industry. We are now exploring more overseas training for our local senior staff to give them more international exposure.
As Vattanac Bank is a growing bank, the staff will have opportunities to learn more, be exposed to the different aspects of banking operations, move up the corporate ladder and grow with the bank. The fact that we are opening new branches and expanding our operation is a strong retention factor for those who have the ambition and drive to pursue a long-term career in banking.
Well, I imagine that the long-term career in banking that you yourself have had, Mr. Chan, puts you in an ideal position to understand what is required to develop your staff over a longer time horizon. Indeed, it’s been a long and illustrious career in banking for you, more than 30 years in the industry. How does your current role at Vattanac compare to some of the previous roles you’ve held? Are the key challenges similar or significantly different?
I joined Vattanac Bank in 2002, with 18 years of banking-management experience from Public Bank in Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. From a structured and established bank, I came to Vattanac Bank and took up the very different challenge of starting a new bank. I therefore had the unique experience of working closely with the shareholders, directors, management and staff as we started to build the bank’s infrastructure—from the core-banking system, IT, training, policies and guidelines to setting the customer-service culture.
Vattanac Bank is a product of everyone in the bank working together towards a common mission. I attribute the bank’s service culture to our president, Madam Chhun Leang, for her passion for good customer service and her strong business acumen. Our staff members with their local knowledge and service orientation stay committed and ably help us to execute our business plans.
Well, looking at the results it seems as though this teamwork at Vattanac that you highlight has been working so far during the bank’s relatively brief 13 years in operation. Do you think being a young, modern banking institution puts you at an advantage over some of the older banks, particularly in terms of your growth potential and the approach you take to conducting business?
As a new bank we are less structured and therefore more able to adjust to current demands; we are more open to new developments and can invest in the latest technology; we know our customers better; and more importantly, we work harder.
Well, it certainly appears that this hard work is now paying off, Mr. Chan. We congratulate you for all the success you have achieved thus far, and wish you all the best for the future. Thank you for your time.