Fueling Cambodia’s Economy: Wing, A Success Story through failure
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Manu Rajan, Chief Executive Officer @ Wing Money.
Wing was created in 2009 by ANZ in Cambodia not long after Kenya proved to the world that mobile financial services (MFS) have the power to change lives for the better. Particularly at the bottom of the income pyramid. This ideal was at the heart of Wing’s mission: to provide every Cambodian with convenient access to mobile ﬁnancial services improving their daily lives. However, three years after its launch Wing failed to deliver its promise and was sold by its founders.
The Royal Group of Companies reviewed the business and realized Wing’s vision had enormous potential. At that time, despite the presence of 27 commercial banks in the country the banking penetration was extremely low; only a single-digit percentage of the population had a bank account. Looking at those numbers, the Royal Group decided it was an opportunity for a new banking model that could provide easy access to low-income Cambodians excluded from traditional banking. Eventually, Royal Group acquired Wing from ANZ.
The new management in charge turned the company around implementing an agent banking model to assist users with “aided digital transactions”. Since that major milestone Wing has led financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked in Cambodia, making them participants of the Economy. Today Wing’s extensive portfolio of products and services includes: domestic and international money transfers, bill and utility payments, phone top-up, payroll services and supply chain payment solutions. Wing also provides retail payments or “WingPay”, micro savings, credit and loan referrals and repayment, insurance payments, ecommerce and online merchant payment.
A Gemini Effect
Wing targeted innovation at the base of the income pyramid. Its key technology breakthroughs have focused on the lower income bracket. Wing led change by launching solutions with a Gemini Effect- a dual benefit for organizations and their beneficiaries. For example, Wing solved a problem of productivity loss in the Textile Industry by creating digital payroll wallets for the labor force in Cambodia. This helped factories to simplify their payroll process, saving operational expenses. It also brought hundreds of thousands of unbanked factory workers into the formal financial sector. Today, these workers have access to micro savings, credit, salary advances and other financial solutions.
The Textile Industry has been a major growth engine in Cambodia, but the country’s economic success story is not complete without mentioning the Microfinance Institution Sector (MFI). Digitization through Wing reduced MFI’s disbursement and micro loans collection costs, providing expanded access to loans and savings especially in rural areas.
Driving digital inclusion in payments
Over the past 12 years Wing has transformed lives and gained the trust of millions of Cambodians by emphasizing digital inclusion. Looking back at a few of Wing’s initiatives: Wing integrated AliPay & WeChat payments allowing the Chinese community to transact with these providers. Wing also helped to expand the Insurance Policy’s penetration by reducing operating costs for insurers, helping them collect premiums from even the most remote villages through the Wing agent network.
Wing has enabled all types of digital transactions transforming the way businesses operate in Cambodia. Its services have made it easier to get around the country from facilitating NFC technology in city bus payments to enable commission payments to ride-share companies, tuk-tuks and taxi drivers. Even beyond the Kingdom’s borders, Wing is helping people access money wherever they need it. Migrant workers can now transfer money to 195 countries from every single district in Cambodia.
Women-led ‘aided digital transaction’ Ecosystem
The biggest challenge for Wing was changing the ‘status-quo’ of the customers who are more comfortable with familiarity. Wing realized customers were not yet confident enough to do digital transactions by themselves which led to the ‘aided digital transaction’ ecosystem. The bank’s key innovation and driver of its success.
Wing’s over 8,000-member agent network covers every district and commune in Cambodia, allowing customers to send money and facilitate transactions using their mobiles and “over the counter” (OTC) at any high-street Wing booth. Wing is proud to report that 80% out of the high-street agents are women. These agents’ booths represent some of the most successful female-led small and medium businesses in the country.
The most trusted MFS operator
The unparalleled success Wing has enjoyed is driven by its unwavering vision and unrelenting dedication to create innovative digital products to simplify the daily lives of Cambodians. Almost 90% of the country’s adult population uses a Wing product at least once per year. Approximately 500 Wing transactions are taking place every minute. In 2019 the volume of transactions in the Wing network was equal to almost 90% of the country’s GDP.
Wing is fueling the economic growth of the country, improving Cambodian’s daily lives and generating new economic opportunities by creating digital inclusion and supporting women with every transaction at the touch of a button.
For Wing, this is a story to be proud of!