We’ve been hearing a lot about Fintech for a few years now and have seen the tremendous growth in popularity across the globe. Every tech conference touts the growth of the fintech sector and each country’s ‘silicon valley’ is making large investments in fintech startups.
But Asia is where it’s really at.
In 2015 alone, over 5 billion dollars was invested in fintech startups across Asia pacific. And that’s not a fluke. A major cause for the rise of successful fintech startups in Asia is the banking challenges that exist in the region. While many like to point to a lack of banking and credit card infrastructure across the emerging markets of Asia, this, like every challenge, presents enormous opportunity. The Asian consumer is very interested and open to banking and mobile payment solutions and entrepreneurs are looking to meet those needs. In countries like India, less than 53% of the population has bank accounts and in Indonesia, less than 36% with a bank account, despite it’s growing GDP and rising middle class. Most emerging markets in Asia-Pacific are similar with Vietnam hovering at 30% as well as the Philippines. These data points show the potential of growth available within the fintech sector across Asia.
And Asian businesses and startups are stepping up to meet those needs.
Dovetailing the banking challenges are the banking opportunities in remettience payments by Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indians working overseas. While most in the developed world simply deposit money into accounts, oversees workers need better solutions to send money back home to their families. In India alone, over 70 billion dollars is remmetted from workers across the globe. In the philippines, workers send over 25 billion dollars back to their families. There is a tremendous market for financial services for remittance alone. US based remitidly has entered the game, and is one of the larger players, but companies across Asia are stepping up including, India’s Instarem who recently got an addition 5 million dollars and is expanding beyond Australia, Canada and Singapore into countries such as Japan and US. WorldRemit, a UK based company, expanded into the Vietnam market last year to take a piece of the 5 billion dollar remittance pie.
In addition, as banks try to get into the purses of the under banked, many have developed mobile banking apps in countries like Cambodia, India and Indonesia as a way to provide bank access to those with mobile phones. One example is ABA Bank in Cambodia who have unveiled an easy to use app that includes bank transfers to non-ABA members.
One of the major claims we heard about fintech was that apps, and social networks in particular, were going to create a new way of moving around money. There was a vision often expressed where users would simply log into their favorite social media app and connect with their banks, transfers= funds to friends, and potentially access paychecks. No one in the US-yet- has figure out this model. China’s Wechat has.
Owned by Tencent Holdings, Wechat Payment has over 400 million users of its services-and the payment option is only available is specific regions. Wechat Pay allows users to share money with other Wechat users and make payments with some offline retailers. This service has earned over $46 million from bank transfer fees and completed more than twice the amount of paypal this past year. Wechatpay is beginning to fundamentally change the way users are banking and their money habits.
Of course, the list of Asia-Pacific fintech startups and investments are huge, as can be seen from fintech accelerators, fintech competitions, and fintech investment funds. Some of these startups aim to help those without traditional bank accounts manage their money and act as a bank account, while others focus on remittance and peer-to-peer money transfers.
Ultimately, because there is a less of a banking legacy in emerging markets across Asia, research shows that the Asian consumer is more open to disruptive innovation, while those in developed nation, like the US, often stick with more traditional banking services and habits.
Yes, the hype is real. Asia is where fintech is ripe for huge market growth and enormous ROI.