In the past decade, the Asian market has been given a lot of attention. This isn’t a coincidence: the Asian market is booming and evolving quicker than any other, and often, it’s them who revolutionize and widely adopt new technologies. Fintech is not an exception ― quite the opposite. Asian countries invest in fintech just as much, and sometimes more than the US, and this number keeps growing. According to the Fintech Funding Report by S&P Global Market Intelligence, investments in fintech companies in Asia-Pacific grew 9.1% to $1.4 billion in the second quarter of 2020 when compared with the first quarter. Since 2018, China is the world’s leading fintech investor. Asian countries taken all together gave birth to multiple fintech unicorns, such as Grab, GoTo, Sea, Ovo, and Bitkub.
So it isn’t surprising that Asia is often called “the new hotbed” for fintech, and is believed to be among the most promising and dynamic markets in the world. Let’s look into it in more detail.
The state of fintech innovation in Asia
The Asia Pacific region experiences growth in fintech products due to a number of reasons:
- Positive government initiatives
- Multiple investors interested in fintech
- Unbanked population (in 2018, only 47% of individuals in the region had bank accounts)
- The population’s openness to new technologies and financial software in particular
Let’s talk in a little more detail about the last point. In 2019, 87% of individuals in China and India reported having adopted fintech apps. In Hong Kong and Singapore, the adoption of fintech apps is 67%, which reminds us that the variety in the Asian region is huge and should be accounted for. Generally, China seems to be ahead and most willing when it comes to fintech adoption. 95% of the population in China use money transfer and payment solutions. Globally, this accounts for 75% of the population. Chinese consumers report that they prefer fintech applications over traditional means for in-store mobile payments, non-bank fund transfers, and peer-to-peer (p2p) payments. Finally, the adoption rate amount SMEs is 61%, which is the highest adoption rate worldwide. In the US, which comes second, the adoption rate among SMEs is 23%.
The governments in the region differ in how much they push and support the adoption of fintech. This results in differences among regions in how many startups they have and how much investment these companies attract. The top three Asia Pacific financial markets are:
According to the Global Fintech Ecosystem Rankings 2021, Hong Kong is Asia’s highest‑ranking fintech city. Its startup ecosystem is growing rapidly, and the local government is doing all it can to make it the most attractive place to build a business. It’s also actively pushing smart banking. Here’re some stats:
- Hong Kong’s fintech hub is in the top 10 regional financial technology hubs.
- Ten fintech unicorns are based in Hong Kong.
- In 2020, Hong Kong rose from eighth to fifth in the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking.
The reason for such success is primarily the initiative that the Hong Kong government has introduced in the past couple of years. The government announced eight initiatives to push fintech. Some of them were: the Faster Payment System (FPS), Virtual Banking licenses, Crypto Exchange framework, and AML ― the Anti-Money Laundering Solution. The entire banking system in Hong Kong is evolving rapidly to become digitized, secure, and most of all convenient for its users.
Singapore is famous for being highly developed technologically, having a good business environment, and being a city of choice for many startups. It’s been dominating the Asian fintech market region, and here’s why:
- Over 43% of all startups in the ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) fintech network are located in Singapore.
- In the first quarter of 2021, fintech companies in Singapore raised about S$656 million, up 355% from the year before.
- Singapore received the #2nd position in the World Bank’s “2020 Ease of Doing Business Report”.
Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is also among the most fintech-friendly cities in the Asian Pacific region. There are multiple reasons for that:
- Indonesia has one of the biggest populations in the region.
- In 2018, the Indonesian government introduced a unified regulatory approval system to make it easier for fintech companies to work.
- 20% of the startups in ASEAN fintech network are based in Jakarta.
What products and services are most in-demand?
If you’re a market player in a new area, you might be interested to know what’s in demand among both the users and the investors. The niches that are experiencing rapid growth within the fintech in the Asian Pacific region are the following:
Digital lending business
Digital Lending refers to a process of automating the lending process from application to loan disbursal through a mobile app. It’s been a phenomenon in fintech development and is praised by consumers, banks, and financial institutions alike. The automation and digitization of the lending process mean much less documentation, which means a quicker and more convenient lending process. In digital lending, algorithms and automation govern and streamline the whole loan cycle. This results in more accessible loans for first-time borrowers, less human error, and no bias. It’s a revolutionary innovation in lending. In Asia, the digital lending business model makes up 32%, among which are the most well-funded Ant Financial, WeLab, PolicyBazaar, and Akulaku.
Digital payment services that include p2p transfers, international money remittances, and payment gateways comprise 26% of the market. Among them are the unicorn startup Grab, India’s Paymt, as well as Gojek, MoMo, Omise, and Acudeen.
Another worldwide fintech goal is crowdfunding. It includes donations, rewards, and equity crowdfunding and is underrepresented in the Asian Pacific region. Crowdfunding products represent 21% of the market.
Other businesses include personal finance management (see an example in the Elinext case study) and insurtech, which make up 11 and 8 percent of the market accordingly.
What are investors looking for?
Investors favor machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Fintech is expected to make fraud detection in banking easier, assess risks more accurately, as well as increase service personalization. A lot of attention is also paid to Data Science ― also, the investors are interested in better personalization that this financial software can achieve. In the Asia Pacific region, fintech companies that adopt ML and AI in order to advance operating efficiencies, process data, and streamline wealth management are most successful in securing investments.
Fintech regulations in the Asian Pacific region
Regulations differ greatly from region to region, and from year to year. Generally, they are aimed at encouraging fintech and giving the opportunity to grow and develop while staying private and secure. Make sure to closely study the regulation before entering the fintech market in Asia. The main programs and acts to look up are:
- The Cross-Border Privacy Rules
- Payment Licence from PBoC
- E-Payment User Protecting Guidelines by MAS
- NPG in Indonesia
- Payment Systems Act in Thailand
Ready to enter the Asian fintech market?
As shown in many reports and articles, including this one, the Asian fintech market is full of opportunities. The governments welcome fintech, and banks and users have already accepted that the technology is taking over their finances and seem to welcome that. The widespread adoption of fintech proves that. Now, the people of Asia await technologies and companies that will offer them better, quicker, more convenient, and personalized services. If you’re looking to enter the Asian Pacific region, then Elinext is here for you. Elinext is an expert in the local market, has multiple offices in Asia, and has rich experience in creating flawless fintech solutions.