CB Bank pursues tech strategy to bring sector into digital age

In October, CB Bank launched Innovation Lab on the API Exchange (APIX), making it the first bank in ASEAN to reach out to other financial technology (fintech) firms in the region on the exchange.

APIX is a global, open-architecture platform that supports financial innovation and inclusion in ASEAN and around the world.

Launched in September 2018, APIX is an initiative of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network, a not-for-profit entity formed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, and the ASEAN Bankers Association. The network’s purpose is to support fintech innovation and financial inclusion in the region.

The move comes at a time when Myanmar is trying to reform the banking sector and adapt to digital and technological change. Competition is expected to intensify now that foreign banks have more liberty to operate in the country. In that light, banks like CB Bank are trying to stay relevant to increasingly savvy consumers.

In an interview, U Kyaw Aung Soe, the bank’s senior technical officer and general manager, gave more insight on CB Bank’s tech strategy:

What’s the rationale behind the Innovation Lab?

On the APIX platform, banks and fintech firms can share, build and test ideas. We created a way for financial institutions to take their ideas to the final stage and make them useful. Setting up the lab cost a lot.

Acquiring resources is not easy in Myanmar. Even if resources already exist, it is not easy to gather them in one place. But we can see ideas from other countries on APIX because almost all countries are on the platform. We can know what banks in other countries are doing. We can adapt their ideas for our country, and we can see how their ideas are implemented or have been successful in other countries. That is why we initiated this project.

Why was CB Bank the first in ASEAN to initiate a project on APIX?

CB Bank prioritises innovation. Other countries and local banks will join the platform later. Many international banks and fintech firms are already on the platform.

Is Myanmar in transition to a digital currency system?

Every bank is going digital. Our future is digital. Some banks in other countries are digital banks and have no branch offices. The main thing is that Myanmar must build a suitable ecosystem. Not only the banks, but the customers and organisations must embrace the digital platform.

What are the challenges to create a digital banking system?

Customers need to better understand how to protect their information. Now they often give information like their ID card number and PIN to others when they transfer money. Banks need to provide streamlined and safer services for users. Only if the whole ecosystem develops, will digital banking gather momentum. The banking sector has grown a lot in the past five years. We’ll succeed if the entire sector cooperates in overcoming the challenges.

How long before the country adopts a cashless payment system?

Almost every bank is promoting a cashless payment system. People still go to government offices to pay bills, but they don’t have to. Any tax-related payment can be made through banks now. Development this year has been quite fast, and I think it will accelerate.

Has CB Pay had much success?

We are trying hard to improve our services. We now offer payment services for internet and telephone bills, stock trading, online shopping, ticketing, insurance, microfinance, donations, taxi fares, and municipal bills. We also offer payment services for more than 10 companies, and online services for loan applications, buying on credit, home and car loans.

Doing this provides better, convenient, and more secure services for customers.

How are you affected by the Central Bank of Myanmar’s policies?

In managing the bank, we have to carry out the policies of the Central Bank of Myanmar. Remittances, clearances, and international clearances are done between banks on the interbank market through the CBM, with some going through the Myanmar Payment Union.

The challenge now is to increase public banking. APIX supports and spreads ideas and solutions for this challenge.

For example, let’s say a Myanmar citizen in a foreign country wants to send money to his family back home, but the family would have trouble getting the money because they live in a remote area and have no access to a bank or money agents. Money remittances don’t end with the money going into the phone. There still remains the step of exchanging it for cash. But if the family could spend the money and make payments by phone without first exchanging it for cash, the problem would be solved. These things can’t happen now, but APIX can help us to get there.

Banks have to get a person’s information when they open an account. For that, users have to come to a bank, fill out forms, which the bank keeps on file. But the whole process could be more streamlined if it could be done via the internet by anyone anywhere. – Translated

Source: Myanmar Times

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