In 2015, Prince Finance Plc. opened its doors as an ambitious private microfinance institution in the heart of Cambodia. Three years later, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) granted the entity a commercial-banking license, and it changed its name to Prince Bank Plc. The bank continued to spread across the country. Today, it operates 33 branches, 4 Priority Banking lounges and 82 automated teller machines in numerous provinces and cities, with its head office in Phnom Penh. But the bank hasn’t finished its expansion drive and plans to open more branches in the coming months to extend its reach, ensuring its offerings are more convenient and accessible to its swelling number of customers.
Supported by its prowess in digitalization, Prince Bank delivers a wide range of retail and corporate financial solutions—current and savings accounts, term deposits, loans, overdraft facilities, bancassurance—through multiple channels. Its technological capabilities have enabled it to launch mobile applications targeting specific customer segments, which have proven to be particularly valued by customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prince Bank is committed to helping not only individuals achieve their financial goals but also small businesses, the engine of any country’s economic growth. It is also targeting high-net-worth customers through its Priority Banking division.
The bank’s ambitions are by no means modest. It seeks to become not only the best digital bank in Cambodia but also the country’s financial-industry leader, the “Bank of Choice”, through the evolution of its differentiated financial products and services, guided by its mission to help its customers succeed via professional financial solutions. Prince Bank is also dedicated to fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities, especially in the areas of education, environment and culture. Its dedicated workforce is expanding as the bank seeks to add employees who share its core values: Passionate, Results-oriented, Innovative, Noble, Collaborative and Entrepreneurial.
International Banker was pleased to have the opportunity to ask Prince Bank’s chief executive officer, Mr. Honn Sorachna, a few questions about the bank’s impressive progress and how it has managed to navigate the pandemic so successfully.
Mr. Sorachna, welcome….
In your opinion, what is the single most significant way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected both PrinceBank and the wider Cambodian banking sector? As Prince Bank’s CEO, how has the pandemic impacted your approach to banking leadership?
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital channels and platforms have become essential and valuabletools for people to carry on with their lives as normally as possible, especially the payment services that have increased significantly with the shift from physical cash handling to digital payments. Customer demand for digital-banking services has increased aggressively as visiting a branch in person is no longer an option for some, and handling physical cash has been avoided during the height of the pandemic.
Remarkably, Prince Bank was ready with its technology platforms to serve our customers with seamless, convenient and safe mobile-banking applications to provide continuous financial services to our valued customers: PRINCE Mobile App along with PRINCE MobileBiz App and PRINCE Merchant App to support our business clients,as well as our HR (human resources) mobile app, HR In the Pocket, to support our staff throughout the challengesfaced during the pandemic. We have always kept our customers’ needs and experiences as our focus in achieving our goal of becoming “The Bank of Choice”. We continuously try harder to provide innovative and indispensableproducts and services to ensure that our customers are looked after and well taken care of.
In early July, Prince Bank announced the grand opening of its Khan Tuol Kouk–Sangkat Boeng Kak Ti Mouy Branch, which brings the bank’s total number of branches across the country to 33, along with 4 Priority Banking lounges and 82 ATMs (automated teller machines). Are you satisfied with the size of this network, or are you aiming for further expansion?
Prince Bank has grown steadily in four years, becoming a full-fledged commercial bank. We have grown from 5 to 33 branches, and three more are in the plans before the end of this year. Although we are focusing and investingheavily in digital banking, expanding branches is still one of the crucial goals we aim to achieve. Branches of todayare different from before; with the advancements in technology and availability of mobile-banking applications, internet banking and off-site ATMs, the role of physical branches has evolved to be a place to connect people while they carry out their banking transactions.
Bank branches will play a more important role in serving differentiated services such as Priority Banking services, deployment of specialized staff for complex products such as bancassurance, brand engagement where brands come alive and a place for physical branches.
Therefore, there is always a need for more branches in the communities where we serve and support the local economies across Cambodia.
In November 2021, the bank launched Cambodia’s first-ever drive-through ATM in Phnom Penh’s northwest. What was the motivation for the bank to launch such a service? How well received has this initiative been in terms of customer feedback?
Prince Bank aspires to be an innovative bank by providing products and services to existing and future customers.We do this by identifying their unmet needs as society progresses with its associated demands, especially in the areas of convenience and service. More and more Cambodians are driving cars, and the hassle of finding a parkingspot is usually a deterrent to using an ATM. With this customer behaviour in mind, we wanted to provide convenient and fast banking; the drive-through ATM meets the needs of both the customer and the bank. We have been receiving very encouraging feedback, and we plan to install more such drive-through ATMs throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia, especially in cities with high traffic and dense population.
The bank recently set up a new department to specifically look into the customer-service experience of the programmes being rolled out by Prince Bank. Can you provide more insight into how this department operates? How does it gauge customer feedback?
The new Customer Experience Department is managed by a seasoned former Priority Banking customer head with extensive experience serving bank customers. The department has a team of four staff championing positive customer-service experiences across all the banks’ touchpoints, including branches, Priority Banking centers and the call center.
Customer-service training, business etiquette and grooming have been carried out, and they are now transforming the Standard Operating Procedure for banking services to ensure consistent customer-service delivery and quality across all branches and touchpoints. Continuous customer feedback has been implemented, and we collect QR(quick response)-code feedback and go through it with all parties involved and collectively put forth solutions to any issues or problems that arise, with an emphasis on customer-service recovery and ensuring our customers’ issues are solved so we remain their preferred bank of choice.
The bank took a major decision to launch a bancassurance service, having entered into a partnership with AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc. in February. What key ways will Prince Bank customers benefit fromthis new initiative, and what are a few of the most attractive bancassurance products and services availableto them?
At Prince Bank, we always prioritize our customers’ needs. Our goal is to become the “Cambodian Bank of Choice”;to do so, we want to be a “complete financial gateway” for our new and existing customers. We believe that ourpartnership with AIA will bring Prince Bank closer to our customers in terms of their life and financial planning. Prince Bank customers can conveniently access high-quality, tailored life-insurance products and services byconsulting with the AIA insurance specialist onsite when they visit a Prince Bank branch for their financial needs. For example, we offered special COVID-19 coverage by AIA Cambodia to a customer who opened a term-deposit account at Prince Bank.
Are you satisfied with the bank’s range of digital-banking products and services? What is the one product or service not currently being offered that you hope to add as soon as possible?
We now have three mobile-banking apps, namely the PRINCE Mobile App—serving retail-banking customers—and the PRINCE Merchant App and PRINCE MobileBiz App—serving business and SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) customers. We have ramped up our user base over time, and the results are encouraging. With the current economic uncertainty arising from rate hikes and inflation plus risks from the ongoing war, which hasworldwide repercussions, we are monitoring the situation closely and mobilizing our resources to areas that willbenefit the bank on the short- and long-term horizons. Our innovation progress in digital-banking apps and efforts to expand their ecosystems with partners are continuing, and we are launching more features of these apps before year-end.
How important is boosting financial inclusion throughout Cambodia? What are the most important waysyou are extending Prince Bank’s financial services to unbanked and underbanked populations across the country?
Promoting financial literacy among the public has always been one of Prince Bank’s key initiatives, especiallyamong the under- or unbanked-customer segment. Aligned with our staff’s customer theme of “We try harder for you”, Prince Bank is focused on going the extra mile in giving this segment equal access to financial literacy and services.
Prince Bank has conducted many roadshows to expand financial literacy in both urban and rural communities and continues to do so on our platforms, such as extending our branches nationwide, social media and website, as well as through collaboration with business associations on financial-literacy subjects, such as savings and loans, financial management, credit and debt management, and other financial knowledge necessary to make financially responsible decisions.
One particularly interesting initiative in which Prince Bank recently played a major role was the investment of $50 million in the Techo International Airport (TIA) Guaranteed Bond, issued by Cambodia Airport Investment Co., for the construction of the new Techo International Airport, Takhmao City located south of Phnom Penh. How important are such development initiatives to the bank? Do you envisage participating in more such projects in the future, whereby you can shape Cambodia’s development?
We look at this investment with a long-term view; such collaboration is necessary for the long-term development of the nation’s infrastructure and the spillover effects of such a project. Cambodia relies on tourism and international investment, and air travel plays an important role in supporting them; the economic development arising from such a project will undeniably bode well for the Kingdom.
As needs arise and as we are able, we will continue to support the development of the Kingdom of Cambodia in the ways that we can.
One of the bank’s most notable recently launched products is the PRINCE eAccount. Can you briefly explain how this account differs from the bank’s previous offerings, particularly its benefits for customers during the COVID era?
Social-distancing measures to safeguard against COVID-19 and the government’s protection guidelines and measures have encouraged people to go digital in every aspect of living, including banking services. The PRINCEeAccount is an alternative financial product allowing new customers to open savings accounts with greater convenience and safety with Prince Bank. It enables customers to conduct financial transactions and digital payments conveniently and securely, increasing financial inclusion across the country.
The PRINCE eAccount is available in both KHR (Cambodian riel) and USD (US dollar), and the process does not require documents or passbooks to carry out deposit transactions, and no initial deposit is needed. The services include account transfers, local fund transfers (NCS [National Clearing System], RetailPay, Bakong, FAST Payment), phone top-ups, bill payments, PRINCE KHQR and more. Cash deposits and withdrawals can be completed anytime via a card-less function on an ATM or CDM (cash deposit machine) at any Prince Bank branch nationwide.
Given the bank’s stated aim of becoming Cambodia’s “Bank of Choice” through being a capable and fast-growing digital bank, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted its digital-banking goals? Would you say it has accelerated Prince’s digital-banking ambitions?
In a way, we would say we were in the right place when the pandemic hit in 2020, as we had just launched ourmobile-banking app. As the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it unfolded, consumer behaviours started to change. With our three PRINCE mobile-banking apps, we have been able to seize the opportunity to meetcustomers’ needs and grow our business.
What is Prince Bank’s most significant objective over the next 12 to 18 months? And how do you intend to accomplish it?
Over the next 12 to18 months, our goals are to grow our customer base significantly on the same trajectory we’ve had for the last four years to 100,000 customers and to expand our customers’ product-holding mix from a single product to an additional product or two. Besides interest income, we are also looking to level up our fee income. And to serve more Priority Banking customers with an eye toward investor entrepreneurs. We recently set upspecific helpdesks—Indonesia Desk, China Desk and Japan Desk—at our different Priority Banking centers to serve investors from these markets.
Mr. Sorachna, I am confident that Prince Bank will achieve its goal of being Cambodia’s “Bank of Choice”. Thank you for your time.