The State of Fintech ASEAN report has been sitting in my inbox for a while now, and I have admittedly been reluctant to open it. For no other reason than we’re all tired of hearing about it.

We love startups in all forms, but the jargon, mystery, and blatant mistruths about the industry in Asia, Southeast Asia especially, has made us slightly jaded. So this is why we’ve not looked at this report for a while.

However, the UOB report has a few interesting pieces in here that we can write about without the jargon and hype. Here are the top 3 points we picked out of the report.

Fintech funding is driving the region’s growth

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Asia continues to dominate funding since 2016. (source: State of Fintech in ASEAN)

The disparity between funding for Fintech in Asian countries versus everywhere else is staggering, well since 2016 at least.

Asia took in double the investment (US$14.4B) compared to the US. Whether or not the region can continue to dominate the global Fintech market in the funding category remains to be seen, but there is still room for growth in the region.

Alternatively, this could be the natural progression of development, as the US and Europe, are developed sufficiently that significant funding isn’t required to spur growth.

Mobile payments all the way

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Mobile wallets or nothing (Source: State of Fintech ASEAN)

More than half of the population of ASEAN is still unbanked, so the focus on mobile wallets is understandable because most people have some form a smartphone. With rising smartphone and internet penetration completely outpacing the efforts of the banks and financial institutions to get people onto some form of payment platform, this is a logical choice.

According to Tracxn data, 367 payment Fintech startups are in the region, with Singapore being the leader with over a 100-based in the small island nation.

Singapore is the region’s Fintech leader

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Singapore has the most number of Fintech startups in the region

Singapore is also the most mature cashless payments market with the highest digital wallet penetration at 23.3%, followed by Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. However, don’t expect the rest of the region to sit idly by and wait. The increase in smartphone penetration is expected to provide a strong push to digital wallet adoption in the future.

Singapore has the best penetration of digital wallets.

The key highlights for Singapore include (taken verbatim from the report):

  • Singapore is one of the top cashless countries globally, with 69% of consumer spending made through electronic modes.
  • More than 50%of the population participates in M-commerce and mobile usage at POS is expected to reach 29% by 2020.
  • 60% of Singaporeans make purchases online, leading to increased demand for digital wallets.
  • 35,000 unified POS terminals (which integrate multiple payment modes) have been rolled out across Singapore as at Nov 2017.
  • Taskforce working on common QR code for Singapore, and MAS testing its own digital currency.
  • FinTechs face strong competitive pressures from payment solutions offered by banks.


It is obvious that the region has the potential for growth, especially with the number of unbanked people in Indonesia and other markets. However, the question is whether funding will continue to spur growth, or are investors trying to assess how mature the market has become.

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