MARUHAN Japan Bank Lao Leads in Customer-Centric Digitalization & Enables Small Businesses

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Forging ahead to become a leading digital, innovative and trustworthy bank in Laos’ competitive banking landscape, MARUHAN Japan Bank Lao Co. Ltd (MJBL), the multiple-global-awards winner is committed to continue delivering advanced digital services to fulfill its clients’ needs and support Lao socio-economic development. MJBL is has also been focusing on delivering solutions for small businesses or MSMEs (micro and small medium enterprises).

After embarking on a strategic transformation program over the past year, the only Japanese-owned commercial bank has been trusted with offering superior services, innovation and products and has been registering a fast-growing customer base.

“We embody quality, service, innovation and trust,” Mr. Anthony Chin, Chief Executive Officer of the bank shared at a meeting with local media recently at the bank’s fully digital and paperless service unit at the World Trade Centre in Vientiane. This is the first of its kind in Lao PDR and the region.

Likened to a metamorphosis, the bank has embarked on a bank-wide strategic transformation to build a strong banking franchise premised on three key pillars –trust, customer experience and digital. Its transformation program, which envisions the bank growing into a leading trustworthy bank in Laos, provides an awesome customer experience to fulfill the innate needs of clients via customer-centric and purpose-built digital enablers.

Recently, the bank launched the 1stever fully digital & paperless bank at World Trade Centre introducing digital queue, paperless account opening, digital signature, digital transactions and cardless ATM. “This is potentially the 1stin the region as well putting Laos on the world map,” the CEO said, referring to the digital and paperless banking system.

“Our Digital service unit is 100 percent paperless, automated and uses straight-through-processing. You can enjoy the seamless benefits of a fully digital banking experience physically at our digital service unit or via our MJ Saduak mobile banking & e-Wallet app, anytime, anywhere at your fingertips”.

Mr. Chin then proceeded to demonstrate how the system works, which significantly shortened the time required of customers – to spend just less than 15 minutes to complete the electronic -based procedures to open a bank account with MJBL.

“Customers don’t have to wait when there is long queue. They just take their queue and go shopping or do whatever they would like to do, thus giving superior convenience. They basically come and get served immediately. We understand the time constraints of customers and business owners who are busy, and invested a lot of resources to develop this system to help optimize our customers’ time usage,” the CEO said. This is unlike the paper-filling procedures that require customers to wait for hours for their queue to come up and fill up the paper form.

Mr. Chin also shared that the digital and paperless system has been tested and is safe and secured, encouraging consumers to adopt the conveniences of digital technology.

MJBL operates as a full-fledged hybrid bank – both in the digital and physical space. It has strategic presence in its Headquarter and four service units in Vientiane, Pakse city of southern Champassak province and northern Luang Prabang province.

Besides these physical locations, the bank operates “Anytime, Anywhere” digital banking service around the clock, seven days a week via its award-winning mobile banking & e-wallet application, MJ Saduak. Launched in November 2019, the bank is an innovative leader in Laos to offer facial recognition, chatbot, financial management tool, peer-to-peer payment capabilities, QR-enabled and more, for the convenience of customers.

Being a founding partner-bank of Lao National Payment Network (LAPNet), the bank’s customers can enjoy the advantage of an extensive network of more than 1,100 ATMs nationwide with ATM-funds transfer capabilities.

Thanks to the convenient services and putting customers’ as top priority, the bank has registered significant increase of customers. It doubled its customer base within 12 months and grew QR merchants to more than 1500.

Fulfilling the needs of clients with convenient, fast, safe and transparent services are key to drive this growth.

“We focus on listening and understanding our customers’ pain points & issues. We then work with them to innovate and provide solutions to fulfill their needs,” the CEO said.

The launching of e-CASS, Laos’ 1ste-Commerce Auto Settlement Solution, which enables anytime, anywhere auto-payment & e-settlement between small businesses and their agents & partners, is another example of such pursuit by MJBL to satisfy their customers’ needs.

The first partner of e-CASS is LOCA, a first Laos’ based online taxi service company and its 400 drivers, can now settle their payment instantly between themselves via MJBL, anytime and anywhere without having to wait for days or weeks to make the settlement like before. Their app is integrated with MJ Saduak and MJBL’s eco-system.

 

With growing trend of e-commerce amid new normal practices driven by the ongoing CoVID-19 pandemic, such cashless electronic settlement appears to be more essential. Another innovation launched recently is MJBL’s innovative virtual MasterCard which has a few unique features – instant approval, 3D security protocol enabled, fully self-controlled via MJ Saduak, cash back and linkage to a choice of LAK, THB and USD accounts with MJBL.

“Many local small businesses use Facebook for product advertisements, however, there is no fulfillment function enabled. Payment is still made in cash or transfers. It is not a full e-commerce,” Mr. Chin said.

“I would like to encourage all small businesses to take advantage of our digital and SME eco-system. Please come to us, we will work with you to find an appropriate solution for you & your business”.

The top executive of MARUHAN Japan Bank, whose group has banking presence in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, is of the view that Laos is well-positioned to take advantage of the digital connectivity and absence of legacy systems to accelerate growth, competitiveness and services value provision.

The bank’s vision and strategic objectives are well aligned to support Laos’ agenda to drive the route to a digital economy, bringing to fore a cashless society and promote financial inclusion.

 

“Our strategy is to accelerate the growth of our customer base, build an accessible network of customer touchpoints, partnerships and modernize operations through digitalization,” the bank said.

“To realize our strategy, we have launched the 1stfully paperless and digital bank in Lao PDR.”

As its service strategy is bound with the Lao government’s development agenda, MJBL in collaboration with Katalyst Partners and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Promotion Department under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has introduced BizGROW, the 1stmentoring program for SMEs in Laos. This initiative is provided free of charge via workshops and mentoring program to micro & small businesses. The bank has just completed the 1stbatch of 3-months mentoring of 20 SMEs, with some notable upcoming small businesses like Naked Espresso, Naree, TT Printing, Taksa Public Speaking to name a few.

On top of that, the bank has been selected as one of four commercial banks to manage and release the Lao government’s financial support via DoSMEP to SME with low interest loans. It is also on the panel of BOL’s SME programs.

Besides innovation, digitalization, partnerships and SME focus, the bank is also a strong proponent of trustworthiness. Its compliance is also certified CAMS, AML expertise and has strengthened its AML and governance framework.

 

MARUHAN Japan Bank Lao (MJBL) won 8 prestigious awards, accolades by global & regional publications:

 

  1. a) Best New Mobile Banking Application by International Finance, UK (2019)
  2. b) Best Bank for Customer Experience by The Digital Banker, Singapore (2020)
  3. c) Best User Experience – Mobile by The Digital Banker, Singapore (2020)
  4. d) Most Innovative Digital Banking Services by Global Business Outlook, UK (2020)
  5. e) European Award for Best Practices in Top Quality Management Strategies by European Society for Quality Research, Switzerland (2020)
  6. f) Best New Banking CEO – Mr. Anthony Chin by International Finance, UK (2020)
  7. g) Most Innovative Digital Transformation Bank by International Finance, UK (2020)
  8. h) Asia’s Most Promising SME at the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Awards by MORS Group, Malaysia (2020)

 

In summary, MJBL is a “Bank For All” – servicing individuals, micro, small and medium businesses, corporates, high networth segments with tailor made innovative products. In concluding the interview, Mr. Chin shared that “We may be small, but we have a BIG heart. We appreciate everyone’s support and hope we can serve more Laotians as we are deeply committed to Lao PDR, her people and community. More exciting innovation, convenience and value-added services for individuals and business are coming very soon … please stay tuned with MJBL!”