FinTech (Financial Technology) has transformed mobile banking. From foreign currency exchange, online shopping and food orders, to hailing transport services like Grab and GoJek, fintech makes digital transactions possible. A 2018 report by market research company Newzoo states smartphone users will reach 3.8 billion globally by 2021– with the Asia Pacific region accounting for more than half that number. Their use has enabled new ways to purchase goods, in real-time from the comfort of our home.
The rise in mobile digital transactions gave rise to an increase in mobile payment apps that allow banks to transfer funds for purchases. Simply put, fintech replaces the paper process with applications and software. This is also apparent by the rise of currency trading signal services around the world.
Why fintech is growing so fast in the region
Historically, Southeast Asia has been behind in this trend. As of 2018, only 47% of adults in the region had bank accounts. However, that is changing due to increased use of mobile technology. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have experienced a rapid rise in mobile and internet transaction rates. Governments, financial institutions, and fintech companies have been moving their countries from cash to mobile payments as the preferred method of making financial transactions. Digital and mobile payments make up 30% of the fintech industry in Thailand.
Early fintech leaders in Southeast Asia
Some early leaders in Southeast Asia’s fintech industry were companies that recognized the trend and introduced and/or included digital mobile wallet payment options.
- TrueMoney, a mobile wallet company, expanded into the gaming industry and added a broader range of payments.
- Indonesia’s pioneer payment platform Doku (Indonesia’s answer to Square) was the first in its country to offer electronic payments.
- Digital content company Garena introduced the AirPay wallet.
- Established in 2010, Vietnamese BaoKim E-Commerce provides online payment services and recently expanded into cryptocurrency.
- Singapore’s Bluezelle emerged as an early leader in cryptocurrency.
- Most recently transportation network Grab the implemented its mobile wallet app GrabPay in partnership with major Thailand financial group PromptPay. This venture expanded Grab beyond ride-sharing to offer customers financial services, making them a key player in the market.
- Modalku, an Indonesian startup lending platform received a boost in funding in 2017, making it the largest financial support for a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform in Southeast Asia.
- CodaPay uses fintech to take payments from cardless customers, available in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
With the rapid boost in fintech startups in Southeast Asia receiving financial support from local governments, banks, corporations and even foreign investors, who are the leading fintech players, and what are they up?
Key fintech innovators in Southeast Asia
Malaysian Corporation CapitalBay recently launched its peer-to-peer (P2P) financing platform enhancing an award-winning, multi-bank supply chain finance platform. They specialise in offering finance solutions to small and medium (SMEs) businesses with cash flow and lending solutions to help business-to-business ( B2B) suppliers and buyers grow. They have financed over 1,300 B2B transactions since their 2017 launch.
Banks are embracing the future with fintech
Adding P2P to their platform entices investors to provide comprehensive financing to small businesses throughout Southeast Asia. Retail investors are now able to take part in CapitalBay’s financing deals previously open only to institutional funders and banks. CapitalBay can offer financing to small business because they use cutting edge fintech that can predict payment risk.
Singaporean insurtech firm PolicyPal uses artificial intelligence to streamline the traditional employee benefits processes of start-ups and SMEs with its digital portal, PolicyPal Business.
HR and business owners in Singapore can use the portal to select a base plan and add-ons that employees can access through an online management dashboard in the PolicyPal app.
Thailand’s AirPay has partnered with many leading banks to take Thailand’s mobile payments platform to another level. AirPay’s technology supports online transactions such as online payments, the purchase of movie tickets, mobile payment top-ups, and games. AirPay lets consumers use their credit cards, bank accounts, and checkout points.
The fintech industry has experienced substantial growth since the 1980’s due primarily to consumer mobility driven by the increased use of smartphones worldwide. Southeast Asia is an emerging market of fintech startups. Some of these early companies and startups were offered incentives by their respective governments, banks and fintech companies to expand their initial offerings by adding attractive fintech services to their existing platform.
Keep your eye on these key fintech companies and startups for even more creative products as they reach beyond Southeast Asia and compete worldwide.
This article was last updated 11 February 2021