Amret, a subsidiary of Advans Group, is one of the top microfinance institutions in Cambodia. Its history dates back to 1991 when a small rural loan initiative was set up in just three Cambodian provinces by the French organization GRET (Recherche et d'Echanges Technologiques, or Research and Technological Exchanges). GRET’s mission was to achieve a truly sustainable future by supporting and nurturing local small business initiatives through the provision of accessible credit.
Backed by prestigious international shareholders, Amret is respected both locally and internationally as an innovative financial institution. Primarily, Amret has been recognized for leveraging its social responsibility vision to provide a wide range of financial products and services to the underbanked and unbanked segments of the Cambodian population. Amret also caters to the needs of diverse micro and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Cambodia.
The mobile banking industry in Cambodia is growing exponentially, with many players competing for market share. Major banks in Cambodia have been driving the introduction of digital products and services through their mobile banking solutions. Amret has also been part of this evolution in the market with its initial Mobile Banking platform launch in 2019.
However, over the past 4 years, Amret has undergone a major digital transformation, reflecting an increased capacity for innovation. Amret has begun utilizing its strong technical foundations to continue serving its established rural customer base while targeting younger urban demographics.
In Cambodia, consumers have embraced digital financial services at a much faster rate than traditional banking services — likely because those providers have succeeded in reaching populations previously excluded from the traditional banking system as part of a financial inclusion drive. For Amret, this has always been at the core of its mission and vision.
It is surprising to find that the number of registered mobile money accounts in the country exceeds the number of formal deposit accounts with banks. But it also suggests that the market has shown a preference and willingness to adopt digital-first solutions for banking, opening up a significant growth opportunity for Amret.
Recognizing the immense potential of the modern, dynamic market environment, Amret approached Mäd to help them take advantage of the rapid adoption of mobile-first banking in Cambodia.
Amret had already been capitalizing on this trend as part of its broader shift towards becoming a leading financial institution that meets evolving customer needs. To achieve this goal, Amret has been actively restructuring its business strategy in order to position itself to better impact the contemporary financial services landscape. This is where Mäd stepped in to help Amret unlock its full potential by supporting the delivery of several digital solutions.
With its strong digital foundation, presence in the market, and outstanding reputation throughout the region, Amret's long-term vision has evolved to conquer wider horizons and enter the mass market. This goal has initiated the institution’s transition from being strictly an MFI to a more commercial, digital-first financial institution that aims to position itself as a competitive mobile banking company in the Cambodian financial sector.
As an MFI, Amret has traditionally had a well-defined customer base, primarily serving populations living in rural areas of Cambodia and working in the agricultural sector.
However, as Amret transitions toward becoming an institution that serves a broader audience, its client base is becoming unique and more varied than ever. This poses several new targets and challenges.
One challenge is effectively serving their primary customers in rural areas and the new customer segments they aim to tap into — younger, tech-savvy, urban-living Cambodians. With the country’s average age being around 27 years old, these modern, more digitally advanced clients form the majority of Amret’s target market and present evolving preferences and demands. Recognizing the importance of this ongoing digitization trend, Amret also seeks to leverage this opportunity by establishing and maintaining a strong presence in the digital-savvy market. As such, they must design an app that meets the needs of both groups and is engaging and accessible to all.
Amret has always prioritized a client-centric strategy that delivers an innovative yet accessible user experience to customers across segments. To align with this key mission, they have also developed a channel strategy.
With the goal of enhancing accessibility, Amret aims to provide modified and adapted channels to its customer base. This approach maintains that each specific channel is intended to cover a clearly defined customer segment, and products and services are tailored for each channel and customer pool.
For example, Amret offers a mobile teller service for micro-segments, complementing the on-ground "live" tellers, whereas their mobile banking product primarily targets audiences in the business segment.
Amret's emphasis on alternative delivery channels has been another consistent strategy to improve accessibility for clients. One notable example is the dedication of Amret's mobile savings officers, who directly serve clients at their businesses or homes. This approach is particularly crucial given the circumstances of many customers who are often occupied with their work on-site, making it challenging to visit a branch or other channel for transactions.
This client-first and channel-focused approach underscores Amret's commitment to creating convenient and streamlined user experiences for its clients.
As Amret expands its positioning from serving SMEs to personal banking clients, they must adapt their services. They may need to introduce financial products like personal loans and savings accounts while continuing to offer existing products and services to their traditional customer base.
The priority for achieving Amret’s overarching strategic objective was to focus on customer experience. By adopting a client-centric and channel-focused strategy, and emphasizing accessibility through alternative delivery channels, Amret positions itself to meet the evolving needs of its diverse customer base. This approach, combined with a strong presence in the digitization market, ensures that Amret's products and services provide significant value and effectively serve its clients' financial needs.
A human-centered approach that highlights quality over quantity is something that we specialize in at Mäd — and something that can help a business excel, even as it enters unfamiliar territory.
The strategy for developing Amret’s new mobile banking app was guided by the need to reach and serve a diverse, segmented customer base. To achieve this, Amret prioritized simplicity of design to improve customer experience, high-performance metrics, products and services tailored to mobile banking users, and an inclusive customer journey.
The product design decisions were driven by the understanding that much of the existing market for Amret consists of the rural agricultural segment with varying levels of tech literacy. However, the app had to go beyond meeting their needs and resonate with new customer segments — particularly the young, urban, and digitally native demographic.
The platform needed to be not just visually appealing but also easy to navigate, with a clean, confident, and polished design that has a simple look and feel. By striking a balance between aesthetics and usability, the app aimed to attract and engage a diverse range of clients, bridging the gap between the existing rural market and new segments. With its user-friendly design and intuitive features, Amret sought to maintain that mobile banking was accessible and enjoyable for all users, regardless of their technological proficiency.
Performance metrics were also prioritized to ensure that running and using the platform was available, stable, and secure. Given that some users may deal with weak connectivity and less powerful smartphones, it was essential to make the app compatible with these devices and run smoothly regardless of the conditions.
Implementing a human-centered approach was another critical aspect of the platform's features. Amret intended to meet the demands of all its users, including individuals, vendors, and businesses. This was especially important given its diverse and segmented client base. Thus, the UX/UI needed to be suitable for a variety of use cases to ensure inclusivity while being in line with the needs and usages of more digital-savvy customers.
Finally, Amret aimed to create a convenient and seamless customer onboarding, simplifying the process to be accessible directly from the mobile banking application without requiring an in-person branch visit. The overall flow for business users and vendors was also improved to provide a streamlined experience.
These design decisions were made to align with Amret’s overarching strategy and provide greater convenience, flexibility, accessibility, and security while promoting financial inclusion and social impact.
The success of Amret's transformation journey could be attributed to several factors, including strong leadership, clear strategy, a customer-centric approach, market differentiator products and services, and a focus on innovation and continuous improvement.
As a result, their new strategy was built on a long-standing foundation of trust, integrity, and a commitment to social impact. This has enabled Amret to build lasting relationships with its customers and communities whilst driving sustainable growth and profitability.
It has also determined how they approach and deliver thoughtful solutions.
Ultimately, the core goal of this project was not simply to design a better, more functional app. It was to achieve Amret’s strategic business objectives by making improvements in its service offerings, enhancing client experiences, and expanding reach.
At a higher level, we aimed to help Amret be better positioned to become one of the top commercial banks in the country while maintaining its mission of offering services to the underserved. Redesigning the mobile banking platform was strategic in enhancing Amret’s competitive advantage of being one of the most inclusive banks in the country.
Unlike most other commercial banks, Amret continues to cultivate a large primary customer base in the agricultural and rural sectors, despite undergoing a major transformation with innovative products and services. By leveraging its digital offerings, Amret is also becoming a top choice for modern Cambodian banking customers.
Given Amret’s position as one of Cambodia’s largest and most trusted financial institutions, to serve the needs of all their clients requires a thoughtful human-centric approach that envelopes many intricate steps.
The development of a new mobile app has created new opportunities for continuous innovation and delivered improved products and services to clients. Amret has also opened up doors for new customers to enter the financial services market, allowing them to access banking products and services with convenience and trust. On a higher level, this has significant benefits for the wider Cambodian society, boosting the nation’s economy through financial inclusion.
Amret's transformation journey is a testament to the power of strategic thinking, innovation, and continuous improvement. By focusing on building its internal capabilities, enhancing its product offerings, and embracing digital transformation, the bank has unlocked higher potential and established itself as a leader in the Cambodian banking industry.
As Amret continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, it remains committed to its core values of trust, integrity, and social impact. By staying true to its core mission and vision and maintaining a customer-centric approach in everything they do, Amret is well-positioned to grow and thrive in the evolving financial services landscape.
If you’re interested in pursuing innovation to enhance your company’s strategy and improve operational excellence, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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