Vietnam’s biggest bank has made a significant step in becoming the first Vietnamese bank to open a branch in the United States. According to Reuters, Vietcombank has received approval from the U.S. Federal Reserve, and an agreement in principle from the New York State Department of Financial Services, to open a representative office in New York City.
The bank is making a push to expand internationally and find its place among the world’s top 300 banking and financial groups. It also comes at a time when the relationship between Communist Vietnam and the U.S. has warmed in recent years.
The State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank, owns 77 percent of Vietcombank, while Japan’s Mizuho Bank is the second biggest investor with a 15 percent stake.
As Vietcombank looks to move into the U.S., many consumers in Vietnam still remain unbanked — meaning that cash is king even as eCommerce rates climb. Data shows that eCommerce sales in Vietnam are projected to grow some 22 percent in 2017. By the end of the year, analysts expect digital retail sales in Vietnam to make up 1.2 percent of the total retail market share. The growth is part of the broader digital boom across Southeast Asia.
In a survey from DI Marketing, 85 percent of eCommerce buyers in Vietnam reported that their primary payment method for digital was cash on delivery (COD). Only 15 percent reported payment mostly through digital methods.
On the digital payment front, there isn’t much impetus for change in Vietnam, even as smartphone penetration grows. By the end of 2018, estimates peg smartphones in the pockets of 51 percent of the Vietnamese market. Still, data indicates that mobile wallet use among digital buyers in Vietnam declined from 37 percent to 11 percent between 2014 and 2015.
One reason for consumers’ penchant for COD in burgeoning digital markets is a lack of trust in the system. COD gives consumers more control in new eCommerce markets; they have the ability to refuse to receive and pay for an item when it arrives at their doorstep.