Video: Pocket change...Myanmar banks on mobile money

For Khin Myint Oo, sending money home to rural Myanmar used to involve long walks or bicycle rides to the nearest bank. Now, it's as easy as sending a text.

She recently began using a mobile-money service, which lets her deposit and send cash from her phone via an app, or at small shops like this one.

Khin Myint Oo, 40, a maid from Shan State, said "The advantage is that if I transfer the money now, it takes very little time. The process will be finished in 10 or 15 minutes. And the children reply to me that they've got the money."

Like 90 percent of the population, Khin Myint Oo doesn't have a bank account.

But even for those that do, using them can be tricky. ATMs are few and far between, and residents of this suburb near Yangon have to take a boat to reach the closest branch.

Myanmar's banking sector withered during decades of military dictatorship, and many people still prefer to store their savings under the proverbial mattress - or convert them into gold or gemstones.

Brad Jones, CEO of Wave Money, said "Building customer trust is going to be the biggest issue here. There isn't a lot of trust in the financial sector given the history of demonetization and bank runs and so on. So the average consumer will generally feel more comfortable at home than in a bank."

These new banking services have only been made possible by rapid advances in technology. In just a few years, smartphones have become commonplace throughout Myanmar. And some consumers could by-pass bricks-and-mortar banks entirely.

Zaw Zaw Oo, 51, shop vendor, said "When this service becomes more popular, it will be much more helpful than the banks because it will allow people to save and withdraw money at any time. Banks are only able to do this during office hours."

Mobile banking was only given the go-ahead by the government in April, so for now uptake is still quite slow.

But with Myanmar's economy growing at around 8 percent a year, more and more people are likely to need ways to store and send cash.

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Last Update: 16:33 KSA 19:33 - GMT 16:33
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