A series of workshops, “Governance of Financial Institutions to Ensure Sustainable, Effective and Inclusive Operations”, has been launched to address the challenges faced by the banking and financial sectors in Cambodia. 

The four workshops have been organised by the Association of Banks in Cambodia (ABC) and the Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA), with support from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) and several provincial administrations. 

The aim is to educate branch managers on their key responsibilities in ethical and professional banking operations, thereby enhancing the resilience of the sector and ensuring customer protection.

“The sector has faced challenges stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, prolonged geopolitical tensions and rising interest rates set by the US Federal Reserve [the Fed],” according to the association. 

While these issues have slowed growth in the US banking sector, Cambodia has also seen an increase in slow credit repayments.

The inaugural workshop took place on July 4 in Siem Reap province, chaired by Samkol Sochetra, deputy provincial governor, and NBC deputy director-general of supervision Em Kamnan along with representatives from both associations. 

Approximately 80 branch managers from Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces also attended. 

Upcoming workshops are scheduled for the provinces of Battambang and Ratanakiri, as well as Phnom Penh, covering crucial areas in the country.

Kamnan emphasised the importance of these sessions as a means to increase awareness about the banking system’s development, relevant laws and regulations, the code of conduct, credit rules, good governance principles and branch management techniques. 

He said these sessions provide a platform for associations and institutions to understand the practical challenges and operational realities of provincial and municipal branches. 

Kamnan stressed the importance of providing financial services with a strong focus on customer protection.

“As leaders in the banking and financial sector, adhering to governance principles with a focus on sustainability, efficiency, responsibility and inclusion is paramount. 

“These principles not only ensure the success and reputation of financial institutions but also contribute to community development and the sector's overall health,” Kamnan remarked. 

Leaders from banks and finance associations and institutions attended a financial governance workshop in Siem Reap on July 4. Supplied

He reminded branch managers of their responsibilities towards their institutions, clients, communities and stakeholders, underscoring the need for transparency and accountability.

ABC Board of Directors member Toch Chao Chek discussed the proactive measures being implemented to tackle challenges and promote responsible business practices. 

He said these initiatives include a Code of Conduct for the Banking and Finance Sectors and credit contract standards. 

He noted they focus on strengthening customer protection and grievance redressal mechanisms, launching a responsible credit certification programme and the Community Financial Security Project. 

Chao Chek added that the programme also includes workshops for CEOs and board members, dissemination of the list of licensed banking and financial institutions and education on financial knowledge.

CMA chairwoman Dith Nita highlighted that 2024 marks the third year of organising regional workshops. 

Unlike previous years which focused solely on microfinance institution (MFI) members, she said, this year’s seminars encompass members from both associations, emphasising the code of conduct and professional ethics to enhance sector sustainability and resilience in line with the National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2019-2025.

“The leadership and management capabilities of branch managers are crucial for operational efficiency, institutional sustainability and customer satisfaction. 

“Effective branch management requires a thorough understanding of legal standards, laws and regulations, as well as awareness of opportunities and threats in business operations,” Nita added.