Building banking depends on trust

More trust is needed to increase the banked population, which languishes at 5 percent of the adult population, according to experts.

There are now 798 commercial bank branches in Myanmar – rising to well over 1000 if state-owned bank branches are included – and also 700 ATMs and 2813 point of sale devices as of the end of May, said Daw Sandar Oo, director general of the Central Bank of Myanmar’s Monetary Management Department.

Still, experts at a June 24 conference in Yangon on Myanmar titled “Preparing for the next decade of growth”, said the financial sector has a long way to go to meet domestic needs.

Hal Bosher, special advisor at Yoma Bank, said many banking-type services are currently operating in a grey area outside the formal sector, which are often expensive but work.

“Whatever changes are made in the market, Myanmar people will bank with their feet,” he said, meaning that people will choose the most suitable banking service, and it was up to commercial banks to attract customers.

Myanmar’s financial sector also lags many in terms of sophistication, but Mr Bosher said it is important that new developments are prioritised.

“We need to focus on things that matter. Complexity should be kept to a minimum,” he said.

International Monetary Fund general advisor to the Central Bank of Myanmar Masaru Tanaka said that it takes a long time to build up trust, but in a second it can disappear.

Myanmar has also begun a process to provide licenses for up to 10 foreign banks this year, but local bankers have urged caution about opening the market too quickly.

Mr Bosher said there is a bit of irony in that Myanmar is looking at foreign banks to bring in trust, when trust of banks is quite low in many international countries following the financial crisis.


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