Latest Reports

  • Breaking Borders
    Breaking Borders Despite progress in payment systems, the absence of a unified, cross-border Real-Time Payments (RTP) network means that intermediaries play a crucial role in facilitating connectivity. This report examines the ongoing complexities, challenges, and initiatives in creating a seamless payment landscape across Asia.
  • Innovate to Elevate
    Innovate to Elevate In the dynamic and diverse financial landscape of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, banks are at a pivotal juncture, facing the twin imperatives of innovation and resilience to meet evolving consumer expectations and navigate digital disruption.
  • Catalyzing Wealth Management In The Modern Era
    Catalyzing Wealth Management In The Modern Era Hyper-personalized wealth management presents a paradigm shift from traditional models relying on static, generalized segments. Developing tailored investor personas based on psychographics, behaviours and fluid financial goals enables financial institutions to deliver rich and tailored customer experiences that resonate with next-generation priorities.

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What about that UK banking license? That’s the question on Revolut’s mind and many others as the UK’s preeminent fintech unicorn nears the end of another calendar year without the ability to offer government-insured deposits, business loans, consumer loans and so on in its home market. It is sometimes overlooked that for all of Revolut’s swagger on the international stage, the UK remains its largest market, and that regulators in other jurisdictions from Australia to India to the U.S. are watching and waiting to see if the UK grants Revolut the license or not.

There has been a fair bit of buildup to the launch of the Philippines’ sovereign wealth fund, the Maharlika Investment Fund, which is supposed to happen by the end of the year. It is a personal initiative of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. which he seems to believe can help his country advance some of its key development goals. So we have to say were surprised when it was reported last week that the sovereign wealth fund would be suspended.

South Korea’s three digibanks have been unusually successful given the high rate of failure, or at least underperformance, in this segment of financial services. The reasons for their success are many, from innovative business models to the weak digital offerings of incumbents, but support from regulators has also been crucial. We will now find out just how much confidence regulators have in these upstarts as they face rising delinquency rates that are a natural result of their focus on non-top tier borrowers.

Having built one of the only successful super apps outside of China, with both a thriving digital bank and payments platform, Kakao has decided it is time to expand overseas. Its first foreign market is Thailand, where it is partnering with Siam Commercial Bank (SCB). Next up is Indonesia, where Kakao is partnering with a couple of heavyweight companies on a digital banking venture.

It was not so long ago that Chinese companies often chose the United States’ capital markets when they sought to list overseas. U.S. stock exchanges offer Chinese companies unparalleled access to a pool of global investors, as well as the prestige that comes with being listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq. In addition, being able to cash out in dollars is an attractive element of a U.S. listing. However, geopolitical tensions have made listing in the U.S. more challenging for Chinese companies, while Chinese regulators are tightening oversight of market debuts outside of China, and it is unclear if and when the situation will change.

In September 2021, Ascend Money became Thailand’s first fintech unicorn, achieving a US$1.5 billion following a US$150 million funding round. While we have learned to take fintech valuations with a few grains of salt, Ascend Money does have a strong ecosystem built on its TrueMoney wallet, which says it serves more than 50,000 users through its platform and 88,000 “agents.” The TrueMoney platform and the strategic investment that Ascend Money has from Ant Group could give it an edge as it expands internationally.

In April, The Ken reported that one of the reasons Malaysia’s digital banks have been slow to launch is that they have had trouble finding the right people to run the new businesses. Apparently, finding talent with the right mix of technological acumen and understanding of the banking business is not so easy in Malaysia – perhaps because the country has been less of a hub for tech startups than some other countries in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, in early September, Grab’s GXBank-Berhad became the first of Malaysia’s online banks to launch. 

For an e-wallet competing against aggressive digital banks, GCash is more than holding its own. The Alibaba-backed company has achieved impressive scale in a competitive, fast-growing market: 81 million active users and 2.5 million merchants and social sellers as of May, and without burning an unacceptable amount of cash. What’s more, according to the company’s leadership, it became EBITDA profitable three years ahead of schedule. The company is now preparing for an IPO. It is just a question of when.

As the massive money laundering case involving 10 people of Chinese descent continues to unfold in Singapore, we wonder if this might just be the third act in a multi-part perfect storm that also involve Three Arrows Capital and some other shady operations. In a nutshell, Singapore, with perhaps the exception of its relatively quiet capital markets, has come into its own as a financial hub in recent years, attracting unprecedented sums from venture capitalists, a huge amount of attention and investment from the crypto community, and a massive influx of Chinese capital that has translated into a broader family office and wealth management boom. With so much money moving into and through the city-state, financial crime risks multiply and authorities have to be more proactive than in the past.

Versa is aiming to disrupt the Malaysian wealth management market with its all-digital platform, which has benefited from ample investor interest and funding, as well as rapid customer acquisition. In 2022, Versa’s gross transaction volume doubled year on year, and the company aims to sustain this pace of growth until 2026.

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