Yoma to tap digital banking for nationwide expansion

YOMA BANK, one of the largest private banks in Myanmar, plans to focus on providing digital products to millions of people in Myanmar , according to Hal Bosher, the bank’s chief executive officer.

Bosher said in an exclusive interview that digital products would allow the bank to serve the country better, making banking accessible and easier for everyone.

“Many Myanmar people do not enjoy banking, so our goal is to make them enjoy. As we believe convenience is important, the best way to provide quality services that are convenient for everyone is digital banking,” he said.

“We are looking at ways to provide digital credit. If you are going to bank through your mobile phone, it is very easy to borrow money. We are going to provide digital credit to allow our customers access to short-term credit facilities.”

He added the bank would bring digital credit experience to the people of Myanmar. Another new product would be digital hire-purchase which would allow its customers to get financing for buying cars, motorbikes or tractors. Currently, those who want to have access to the hire-purchase scheme need to come to the bank and it takes a whole day to complete everything.

According to Bosher, the bank currently focuses on SME (small and medium enterprises) and business banking but it will also prioritise retail banking as an essential part of its growth.

Established in 1993, the bank faced Myanmar’s financial crisis from 2003 to 2012 before it was relaunched in early 2013. Bosher seems happy with the bank’s growth over the past five years. He takes pride in the bank being hailed as well-run, responsible and progressive organisation with good governance.

“At that time, we were the smallest bank in Myanmar with no deposit and loan. We started with zero, and we are now No 5 [among private banks] in Myanmar,” he said. He added the bank upholds the highest standards in terms of credit risks.

New features

The bank now has 75 branches in 39 cities across the country, except some undeveloped regions like Chin State. It has more than 450,000 customers, 27 per cent of whom are using SMART, a convenient digital banking product which was introduced one year ago. Additional new features like SMART Payroll and SMART Salary Advance were recently added to elevate the customers’ SMART experience, he said.

SMART allows its customers to manage their money at a time and place of their convenience – banking services are accessible 24/7 through online and Yoma Bank mobile banking application. Sending money between SMART accounts is free, and SMART holders have access to the over 3,000 MPU branded automated teller machines in Myanmar, where they can withdraw cash without any additional transaction fee. They also have access to over 30,000 Wave Shops throughout Myanmar.

Bosher stressed the importance of the bank’s establishment of Wave Money, a nationwide mobile financial service, in serving the mass market including those living in remote areas where no Yoma branch is located.

“We do not have as many branches as we would like to. And people also need financial services outside banking hours and on weekends. This is why we believe in digital, and using Wave agents will be more convenient,” he said.

The bank currently has two trillion kyats in deposit, 13 per cent of which were represented by its Top 100 depositors. Bosher foresees a significant rise in the next few years thanks to its innovative digital products and new offerings. It has 3,081 employees, with an average age of 34. Fifty-three per cent of its employees are women, and expatriates represent only 0.3 per cent of the workforce.

“Our plan is to do a transformation where all staff are in the right roles by using technology so that we can do more with less manpower,” he said.

To date, Yoma Bank has signed 8 funding partnerships with various microfinance financial institutions (MFIs), and is likely to sign with two or three more MFIs by the end of this year. For the next three years, the bank will apply the facility structure of its MFI scheme to support other industries.

Bolsher said Myanmar’s banking sector needs a stronger regulatory framework to allow local banks to produce more products.

“On the lending side, it is a very small community that can access bank credit. Banks need to be given the freedom to explore products that suit their customers, for example interest rate. We know that informal interest rates in Myanmar are very high. In order for the banks to be able to serve more people, they have to take more risks,” he said.

“Because banks cannot take both risks and returns, we have a very limited community that we can serve, particularly on the lending side. We should be given the opportunity to give Myanmar more opportunities,” he said.


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