Is Maya the best digibank in Southeast Asia?

Written by Kapronasia || August 23 2023

Is the Philippines’ Maya Bank the best digital lender in Southeast Asia? The Digital Banker certainly thinks so. On a recent top 10 list compiled by that publication, Maya was the only Southeast Asian digibanks and No. 8 overall alongside digibanks such as Starling, Revolut, WeBank, MOX Bank and Kakao Bank.

While top 10 lists are always somewhat subjective, Tencent-backed Maya Bank (the erstwhile PayMaya) does appear to be rising above its competition. Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) show Maya accounts for 61% of the country’s digital banking accounts, making it dominant by that metric.

But it’s not just the number of accounts: As of March, Maya had 71% of depositors and 46% of the total deposit balance among licensed digital lenders. By the end of June, Maya had 2.3 million depositors overall and a total deposit balance of about P25 billion (US$444.1 million). Cumulative loan disbursements reached P10 billion (US$177.7 million) while on invite-access mode.

These numbers are impressive, but let’s put them into perspective. Maya has existed in one form or another since 2000, when it was founded as Smart Communications’ Smart Money, a joint initiative with Mastercard and the bank now known as BDO Unibank. It transformed into the PayMaya e-wallet in 2016 and Maya Bank in May 2022. So we can safely say that Maya has had plenty of time to build customer trust and establish its ecosystem.

At the same time, we doubt that Maya’s current business strategy is sustainable. For instance, its business deposit offers a 2.5% per annum interest rate, which is reportedly 20 to 25 times higher than that offered by conventional banks. How long can Maya afford to subsidize its customers so generously?

To its credit, Maya is taking customer segmentation seriously – and sees potential in the gamer segment. For this demographic, Maya has partnered with Singapore-based cross-border content monetization solutions provider Coda in order “to boost savings for gamers” according to Maya. Through the initiative, gamers will reportedly be able to earn up to a 10% interest rate per annum on a Maya savings account by simply using Maya as their payment method when making purchases on Codashop.

Surely, that’s a great deal for gamers, but once again, it appears Maya is subsidizing customers in a bid to secure their loyalty. It could be a risky gambit – as the competition undoubtedly has similar ideas.

While we are a bit circumspect about some of these retail banking initiatives, we are more sanguine about Maya’s move into the MSME segment, which was announced earlier this month. This segment is underserved and Maya claims it was the top merchant acquirer in 2022 and has onboarded more than one million merchants as of June 2023. By The Asian Banker’s estimates, MSME financing accounts for just 7% of banking loans in the Philippines, compared to 70% for corporate lending.

With that in mind, Maya is building micro-credit facilities for its current user base and merchants already registered on its payments platform by boosting loan and credit offerings such as buy-now-pay-later and installment loans. Maya also plans to launch a flexi-loan product.