Burma, one of the final frontiers for the international financial system, now boasts over 2,000 automatic teller machines (ATM) and credit card services provided by global brands such as MasterCard and Visa.
Yet in a country where electricity is provided in fits and spurts, and internet connection is difficult to guarantee, online banking and ATM access is problematic.
Customers have identified banks linked to the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications ATM network as particularly unreliable. Such dubious electronic systems are deeply affecting customer confidence in a country that until 2012, operated with a solely cash economy.
So while growth in the sector has been rapid, it has not been without its pains. However, domestic institutions such as the Cooperative Bank (CB), operators of the largest network of ATMs in the country, are working to overcome them.
Wai Phyo Aung, Head of Core Banking at CB, says customers will have to be patient as infrastructure is rolled out.
“Our aim is allow the customers access to banking services conveniently from home or via mobile phone,” he said.
“We are trying to make this happen, but all these new advances in technology rely on a network system.”
Thursday was the final day of the second annual Myanmar Banking and Business Development Conference in Rangoon, where 250 delegates from 16 countries heard from technology experts on how Burma’s banking and treasuring systems could be modernised.
Speaking at the event, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, Set Aung, said progress is being made.
“With the Central Bank gaining independence last year, we have reached a significant milestone in our reform journey. In order to continually develop our banking sector, I will like to call upon the leading authorities, most influential voices and the brightest minds of the region to gather to discuss the opportunities and challenges we are facing today,” he said.
The challenge is to catch up with regional neighbours in the provision of consumer banking services.
Wai Phyo Aung predicts future stumbling blocks.
“The number of customers are increasing every year, and so are the number of ATMs,” he began. “But the unstable network system is a big factor and the more customers we have, the more problems there will be.”
He went on to say that the MPT and internet service provider Yatanarpon Teleport are trying to improve the network.
But it’s not surprising that in a country with poor infrastructure that experiences frequent power cuts, a new electronic banking system will face hurdles.