New partnership to tackle Myanmar’s unbanked

Myanmar

Telenor is teaming up with Yoma Bank to provide basic financial services to millions of unbanked people in Myanmar.

The two firms, who have already starting working together to hire skilled workers and select and IT infrastructure for the project, are waiting for clarity on the regulatory regime that will govern the service.

Only about six per cent of the population has a bank account, said Yoma Bank chair and CEO Serge Pun, with the rest struggling to access the traditional banking system.

 “They might be living in very remote areas where getting access to a branch of any bank is problematic. They might be in professions which don’t give them time to get to a bank – by the time they arrive it is closed,” he said in an interview with Myanmar Times.

Banks in Myanmar face high fixed infrastructure costs that limit their branches, meaning they generally attempt to attract the most valuable customers first, said Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg in the same report.

“They will always start at the top of the pyramid and go downward. We are starting at the bottom of the pyramid and working upward and serving a segment that will not be served by the banks in general because the cost will be too high,” he said.

The two companies are struggling to clarify how mobile banking services will be regulated in the country, and are unable to move forward until the Central Bank of Myanmar decides on what structure will comply with its regulations.

Central Bank officials have previously said two different models of mobile banking will be allowed. In July, a senior Central Bank official told The Myanmar Times that there were plans for non-bank-led mobile payment licences, in addition to bank-led mobile payment licences, for which the rules were laid out nearly a year ago.

Innwa Bank-connected Myanmar Mobile Money is the most prominent example of the bank-led mobile banking already being offered in the country.

But Telenor and Yoma hope to spearhead more flexible, non-bank led models, which have yet to be allocated a set of rules by the Central Bank.

Norway-based telco Telenor is in the process of setting up mobile banking operations in across its Asian markets.

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