Hitching a ride on growth in Myanmar banking

Corporate March 17, 2018 01:00

By The Nation

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Piers Leach, the country manager for Diebold Nixdorf in Myanmar, talks to The Nation’s KHINE KYAW in Yangon about the company’s expansion plans.

TECHNOLOGY company Diebold Nixdorf aims to capitalise on the expansion plans of Myanmar banks, providing the software and hardware – including automatic teller machines (ATMs) – that will underpin their rollout of banking services nationwide, said Piers Leach, the firm’s country manager for Myanmar.

“With the ATM expansion of local banks in rural areas, we will see additional expansion with cash recycling machines and forex machines in rural and less populated areas. They will require machines, equipment, technology and professional services that we are happy to support,” said Leach, who expects the company to enjoy higher growth in Myanmar this year.

Leach, in an exclusive interview, said Myanmar banks are keen to exploit the latest technology to ensure customer satisfaction. He believes technology used by Myanmar’s banking sector is on a par with that of other Asean countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, and will evolve rapidly.

According to available statistics, there are more than 3,000 ATMs in Myanmar, and the firm has acquired over 50 per cent of the market share for them, despite intense competition with four main competitors. The firm sells all its machines through three sales partners in the country. 

“We are still the market leader, and all the major banks including CB, KBZ, Aya, Yoma and AGD are our customers. We deal with most of the private banks, and will carry on growing the business and continue support to customers here,” Leach said.

The executive stressed the importance of the firm’s cooperation with CB Bank, which has been expanding in foreign exchange and cash recycling. 

The firm provides professional services for all of CB Bank’s 700-plus ATMs across the nation. According to the contract, the bank aims to double its size of ATM network with the firm’s technology.

Leach said the had firm had enjoyed healthy growth since opening its Yangon office in January last year.

“Within one year, we are where we expected we should be. Our growth is better than expected,” he said.

He considers Myanmar banks’ expansion of their ATM network, the need for equipment, and their thirst for the latest technology will be the major drivers of the firm’s growth. He believes the firm’s in-country presence can fuel the growth thanks to providing customer convenience.

“For us, it is really important to open the office here. If they have any issues, customers can directly reach us. We are close to customers and can better understand them. We can be their preferred choices of supply because we are here,” he said.

The firm now has over 40 employees in Myanmar - most of them are skilled engineers who provide technical support and professional maintenance. They are based in six major locations across Myanmar to fix any technical problems as quickly as possible.

Except for Leach, all the employees are locals, with over 30 per cent them women.

Leach said the employees were trained through the firm’s global training programme to build up their capacity. He hopes to hire more staff when the business expands.

“We hired talented local staff, and they have been trained with a global perspective. We keep on building the team. If anybody leaves, we will have a replacement shortly,” he said.

 “We have trained our employees to make sure their ability is good enough to take higher positions if necessary.”

The firm mainly focuses on the banking and retail industries, and is also looking at opportunities to expand to money services in cooperation with local partners.

 “Currently, the majority of our customers are from the banking industry. But we are looking to expand into retail,,” he said. 

“We have partnered with some major retailers in the market including supermarkets and convenience stores, and also hope to get some businesses with City Mart Holdings. All the retailers are looking to improve the current technology, and City Mart will probably be going on the same direction.”

Leach said things had been smooth for the firm in Myanmar, despite the country’s low ranking in World Bank’s “Doing Business” report.

“We have not faced many business obstacles as we grow. Things are not going to change overnight,” he said. “We are continuously seeing improvements, and the government is trying to make things easier for foreign businesses. So, things are getting better and easier for us to work here.”

In the next three years, Leach foresees a lot of innovations, particularly in the banking industry. He seems optimistic about the firm’s growth in Myanmar, with support from the company’s other offices in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Myanmar has some advantages over Thailand, Malaysia and other Asean countries. You can evolve very quickly,” he said.

“The government is doing a relatively good job. It is going to take a long time but you cannot expect changes overnight. It is a process that will come for sure.”