Asia Payments Research

Singapore is an ascendant digital finance hub, in 2018 attracting $365 million in fintech investment. That investment was double the amount raised a year earlier. Despite its small size, the city-state is still the No. 5 fintech market in APAC by funds raised.

Japan is the world's No. 3 economy and known for its tech prowess, yet the Japanese people prefer cash over other forms of payment. Just one in five transactions in Japan are cashless. Some analysts say that Japan can learn from its giant neighbor China when it comes to cashless payments. In less than a decade, China has gone from cash reliant to nearly cash free. In 2017, nearly half of the world's digital payments were made in China.

It wasn't so long ago that China's tech firms were panned as second-rate copycats. The best example might be Baidu, the search giant that is often less effective than Google in Chinese-language searches.

Tencent's WeChat messaging app changed the equation, establishing a mobile-internet ecosystem that is the envy of its global competitors. WeChat has over 1 billion monthly users (mostly in mainland China) and is the No. 5 most used app globally. Its payment platform has expanded to 25 countries. Thanks in part to WeChat business Tencent had a strong third quarter in 2018. Revenue reached $11.7 billion, up 24% over a year earlier, while profits rose 20% year-on-year to $3.4 billion.

Mobile payment adoption is accelerating in Thailand as the finance sector moves to digitize. Like its Asean peers, Thailand is keen to use digital finance to boost an underdeveloped banking sector. Without the entrenched incumbents of developed economies, Asean countries tend to view digital finance as a greater opportunity than threat. Even highly advanced Singapore has embraced fintech, with an eye towards becoming Southeast Asia's fintech hub.

In Japan, cash is still king. Indeed, the Japanese have a fondness for physical currency that has ebbed amongst their neighbors. Cash accounts for 80% of transactions in Japan, compared to 40% in China and 10% in South Korea.

On September 18th 2018 the MAS launched the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR). Within the next year, 27 different mobile wallet providers including PayNow, NETS, GrabPay, Liquid Pay, and Singtel Dash will incorporate the new standardised code. The SGQR is the first of its kind globally and represents a significant change to the e-payment landscape. Interoperability is seen as a key infrastructural requirement for mobile payments and will have several impacts on new and incumbent firms in the market. 

China Telecom and China Mobile, two of China's leading telecommunication companies, were approached by the Chinese government under a proposition to enter the Philippines telecommunications market. 

With Bitcoin recently hitting an all- time high of $14,000 USD on December 7th 2017, many have been asking questions about whether the cryptocurrency’s price will continue to rise in the future or if it is simply a speculative bubble waiting to burst. The currency has risen by over $13,000 USD since the 1st of January 2017, a remarkable, and for some unfathomable surge considering it has no tangible assets or value at its core.

Singapore’s PayNow and Thailand’s PromptPay are set to link their national digital payment systems, thereby making it easier to send money between the two countries.

It is quite obvious that Alipay is the largest mobile payments platform in the world, with approximately 400 million registered users. Third-party payment platforms play an integral role in Chinese consumers’ everyday transactions because of the multi-faceted services offered, such as ecommerce and mobile payment transactions.

According to iResearch data released in September 2014, the Gross Monetary Value of China’s third-party online payments reached 1,840.66 billion Yuan (USD $299 billion), with year on year growth of 64.1%.

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