Singapore – The payment solutions provider Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) has collaborated with the creative firm DDB Group Singapore to promote a faster, simpler, and more convenient method of payment. The agency is using a fortune cat to educate debit cardholders in Singapore’s heartlands about a more convenient payment option at partner retailers around the country: using ATM or debit cards to pay with NETS.

A series of 15-second videos featuring NETS merchant categories—such as local restaurants, hair salons, and grocery stores—are the focal point of the social media-first campaign. The movies depict the exploits of NETS Tappy Cat, who uses an ATM or debit card to tap its way to faster and simpler fulfilment, emulating the famous wave of the fortune cat.

Selected partner merchants will receive over 10,000 NETS Tappy Cats and point-of-sale collateral as part of the campaign activation. The campaign will also feature digital advertisements and out-of-home digital placements starting on July 11. 

According to a recent Global Data report, Singapore’s cards and payments market is expected to be valued US$107.3 billion by 2023, with cards emerging as the preferred electronic payment method. In recent years, contactless card payments have become increasingly popular. 

Despite the rise in contactless payments made through NETS, some customers continue to use the conventional slot and pin method. Taking advantage of the growing acceptance of contactless card payments and the widespread presence of fortune cats, the campaign aims to establish and preserve connections with NETS. 

Speaking about the campaign, Vinod Savio, chief creative officer at DDB Group Singapore, said, “The best ideas tap into cultural observations, transforming familiar stories and experiences into something new and captivating. When the team decided to transform fortune cats into NETS Tappy Cats, we knew we had struck on an idea that had the power to move people.”

Meanwhile, Pamela Tan, group chief marketing officer at NETS, commented, “With this campaign, DDB managed to leverage culture to create a connection with merchants and customers. The campaign offers a refreshing approach to get everyone to sit up and pay attention to how easy it is to pay contactless and securely with NETS. We’ll never look at fortune cats the same way again!”

Singapore – Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Amazon have launched a strategic partnership as part of Singapore’s Digital for Life initiative. The partnership aims to improve Singaporeans’ essential digital skills, focusing on areas such as safe online shopping and Gen AI. Community workshops will be organised to deliver these educational initiatives, led by corporate volunteers from Amazon.sg, Amazon Payments, and AWS, with support from IMDA. 

Amazon and IMDA have partnered to co-curate community workshops, building on IMDA’s Digital Skills for Life (DSL) competencies, which include “Transact Online” and “Be Safe, Smart, and Kind Online” content. The goal of these workshops is to teach Singaporeans of all ages—from young children to elderly people—safe and secure internet payment methods.

In addition to community workshops on secure online buying and transactions, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will conduct workshops as part of the Digital for Life campaign in conjunction with IMDA. These workshops seek to educate Singaporeans about generative artificial intelligence (Gen AI) and emerging technologies, emphasising their practical applications and advocating responsible use. 

The first AWS community workshop on generative AI was held in June 2024 with Singapore’s National Library Board, teaching attendees spanning from primary school students to seniors how to apply AI models to construct an application. These efforts support the AWS AI Spring Communities program, which focuses on AI-powered community development and is part of AWS’s recently announced flagship program, AWS AI Spring Singapore. AWS AI Spring will teach 5,000 people in AI capabilities annually from 2024 to 2026. 

Amazon has donated S$100,000 to the Digital for Life Fund to pursue the movement’s goals. The Singapore Government will match this donation dollar for dollar to promote digital literacy and wellbeing, as well as digital technology and inclusion efforts for vulnerable populations.

In line with the Amazon and IMDA partnership, Amazon and IMDA’s engagement comes after Amazon.sg received the highest possible grade for the third consecutive year in April 2024 in Singapore’s E-Commerce Marketplace Transaction Safety Ratings (TSR). Amazon Singapore has just joined the newly created Global Anti-Scam Alliance’s Singapore chapter as Vice-Chair, collaborating across industries to safeguard Singaporean consumers from criminal actors. 

Amazon aims for a world where people can live confidently and without worrying about becoming victims of scams that may be created by working with governments and businesses from all around the world. Amazon is keen to collaborate with others in order to map out a path to accomplish this goal. 

According to the Singapore Police Force (SPF), frauds and cybercrime remain a big threat. In their 2023 brief, SPF noted that the number of scam and cybercrime cases climbed by 49.6% from the previous year. The survey also found that 73.0% of scam victims were teenagers, young people, and adults under the age of 50, emphasising the significance of teaching these demographics on how to protect themselves from bad actors and learn about safe online purchasing and new technologies. 

Speaking about the partnership, Doreen Tan, assistant chief executive (strategic planning and digital readiness) of IMDA, said, “As the digital space evolves, we recognise the importance of equipping Singaporeans with the tools and skills to stay safe online. Our collaboration with Amazon builds on IMDA’s Digital Skills for Life competencies, which cover learning to transact securely and being savvy and kind online. We welcome more partners to join us in the Digital for Life movement, to build a more inclusive society where no one is left behind and everyone can enjoy the benefits of the digital age.” 

Meanwhile, Josen George, general manager, Amazon APAC, stated, “Widespread education and collective action are critical armors in our fight against scams. As technology advances, bad actors will continue to find new ways to take advantage of communities. We must strive to be a few steps ahead of them by working together, sharing our knowledge, and creating a safe environment for day-to-day activities online. Amazon – including teams from Amazon.sg, Amazon Payments and AWS, is proud to work closely with IMDA to further educate Singaporeans about safe online shopping and safe transactions using digital payment methods such as PayNow, as well as sharing the benefits and responsible use of new technologies such as Gen AI. Safety is the top priority in everything we do at Amazon.” 

Indonesia – Superbank has become Indonesia’s first bank to integrate digital banking services directly into the Grab app.

The partnership allows millions of Grab users and partners to open accounts, save money, and make payments without having to download an additional app. 

The integration provides consumers with a 6% yearly savings interest, the ability to withdraw funds at any time, and a 75% discount on GrabFood and GrabBike services. This project significantly enhances Superbank’s aim of providing safe, and affordable financial access, hence fostering greater financial inclusion in Indonesia.

Through the Grab app, users can register a Superbank account and link it to their payment method for GrabFood, GrabBike, GrabCar, GrabExpress, and GrabMart, among other services. By doing away with the need for extra apps, this expedites the account registration process and lowers storage consumption on customers’ phones. 

Furthermore, ‘Pinjaman Atur Sendiri (PAS)’, an unsecured digital loan with adjustable credit limits and terms as well as clear interest and charge details, is being made available to a limited number of Grab users by Superbank. 

Financial services sectors like Grab, EMTEK Group, Singtel, and KakaoBank encourage Superbank to keep innovating. Superbank’s integration with Grab is evidence of its dedication to offering a more relevant and inclusive banking experience, assisting customers in better managing their money. 

Speaking about the integration, Tigor M. Siahaan, president director of Superbank, expressed, “We are thrilled to see how easily people can open accounts, save, and make payments directly through the Grab app. This aligns with our mission to transform banking in Indonesia with innovative and secure financial solutions. The integration with Grab provides easier access to banking services and attractive offers, supporting users in managing their finances better.”

Meanwhile, Neneng Goenadi, country managing director of Grab Indonesia, said, “Our users and partners can now quickly and securely access banking services and Grab services in one application. Superbank’s 6% annual savings interest is expected to benefit the community significantly. This initiative aligns with our mission to create a broader positive impact through technological innovation and economic empowerment.”

Philippines – Visa, a global payment solutions provider, is dedicated to increasing digital and financial inclusion in Southeast Asia by providing women and youth with digital and financial skills. This effort strives to promote long-term growth and prosperity. 

Southeast Asia’s young population, which makes up approximately a third of the region, as well as its SMEs and MSMEs, which account for 99% of all firms, are critical to economic growth. Visa is contributing to this success by increasing digital and financial literacy among women SME owners and young people.

In 2023, Visa will have digitally empowered 10 million SMEs in Asia-Pacific. The Visa Foundation has invested more than US$47m in the region, supporting two million women-led SMEs and sustaining 500,000 jobs. It just invested US$100m to APEC economies over a 5-year period.

According to an OECD assessment, women, people from specific ethnic minority groups, and rural regions have obstacles when it comes to fully embracing digital possibilities. These groups frequently face institutional and cultural barriers to growth, in addition to a predilection for unofficial funding. 

Stephen Karpin, regional president, Asia-Pacific, Visa, said, “In the Philippines, women and young people form a crucial engine propelling local economic growth. Visa utilises our resources and vast network to give back to the communities we operate in, particularly in promoting digital and financial inclusion. We believe in the transformative power of providing individuals and communities with global access to digital financial tools. As a key partner in Southeast Asia’s financial ecosystem, Visa is committed to reaching the most underserved communities, ensuring they too can reap the benefits of the digital economy.” 

Meanwhile, Kelly Tullier, vice chair, chief people and corporate affairs officer, Visa, added, “At Visa, we are dedicated to empowering women, particularly those running small businesses, to set them up for success. My trip to Vietnam reinforced how contributions within local communities are most impactful when done in concert with leaders on the ground. We met Visa Foundation partner, WISE Vietnam (Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship), which has supported 100,000 women entrepreneurs in Vietnam with access to digital tools to grow their businesses. 

“Meanwhile, Visa’s partnership with The Asia Foundation enables us to work with government agencies and microfinance institutions to support local businesses and help the digital economy thrive. By supporting each other, we lay the groundwork for equitable futures for all,” Tullier added. 

Visa and the Visa Foundation form strategic partnerships to promote digitisation and financial inclusion in Southeast Asian communities. 

In line with Visa’s financial literacy initiative in the Philippines, which began in 2017, has trained over 36,000 students and teachers in 64 schools spread across 21 cities. Visa collaborates with Tanghalang Pilipino, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident theatre troupe, and Teach for the Philippines (TFP), a non-profit organisation supported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. 

The program includes a Tagalog skit that was performed in classrooms and eventually developed into two online series about financial literacy. In order to promote student development programs and leadership development projects that place transformative teachers and changemakers in schools and education governance organisations, TFP recently received a grant from the Visa Foundation. 

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Visa provided women-led Indonesian SMBs with the tools they needed to drive financial and digital inclusion. Since its launch in 2017, the “Ibu Berbagi Bijak” (Women Sharing Wisdom) financial literacy initiative has benefited over 1,400 women, including more than 1,000 women-led MSMEs in Central Java, Yogyakarta, Bali, and West Java, through training, mentorship, and business matching. This project received backing from regional governments, Bank Indonesia, the Financial Services Authority, and key ministries such as the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises. 

Additionally, the Visa Foundation’s partnership with UN Women and the Swiss Association for Entrepreneurs in Emerging Markets produced a program that provides business coaching, networking opportunities, and funding to women-led care firms. Following program completion, the first cohort touched over 6,500 employees and independent caregivers in addition to over 27,000 care beneficiaries. 

In Vietnam, Visa’s ‘Accelerate My Business’ program, developed in collaboration with The Asia Foundation and the Center for Women and Development, assists ethnic minorities, youths, and female Vietnamese company owners. This initiative delivers basic financial, commercial, and digital expertise to micro and SME owners in disadvantaged communities, with the goal of empowering 25,000 female company entrepreneurs over the next three years.

Additionally, Visa provides help to households and ethnic minority communities under a three-year Memorandum of Understanding signed with the State Bank of Vietnam in 2023, in collaboration with the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs. Improving financial and business literacy in Vietnam is the goal of the yearly Financial Literacy Program, which was founded in 2012 in collaboration with the Vietnam Students’ Association Central Committee. 

Furthermore, in Cambodia, Visa works with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia (MoWA) and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to empower women through financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs. Since 2020, Visa, MoWA, and NBC have collaborated on a four-year initiative called “Promoting Financial Literacy for Women and Women Entrepreneurs,” which has benefited over 10,000 female entrepreneurs and students. 

Visa is committed to coordinating its social impact initiatives with the objectives of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), in light of NBC’s progressive pledge in its National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2019–2025 to cut the percentage of women who are financially excluded by half, from 27% to 13%. 

Over 1,200 women entrepreneurs in the Philippines and Cambodia have benefited from The Visa Foundation’s cooperation with The Asia Foundation. Over 800 women entrepreneurs in 12 provinces in Cambodia were given access to cash, financial education, business training, and online markets through the project’s use of pre-existing e-commerce platforms. 

Manila, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Mastercard have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote financial inclusion and digital transformation across Asia-Pacific. The agreement reflects both organisations’ common objective of improving financial inclusion by supporting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and women-owned businesses. It seeks to use digital innovation to promote equitable growth and the adoption of climate-friendly behaviours. 

ADB and Mastercard have committed to working together on projects that will increase financial accessibility, encourage the use of digital payments, and improve digital literacy in marginalised populations. Their main goals include encouraging inclusive economic development and closing the digital divide. To make sure that their cooperative efforts are in line with the main goal of creating a safe and sustainable digital economy, the parties have set guiding principles.

ADB recently granted a US$300m loan to help the Philippines’ financial inclusion aspirations. The loan aims to increase Filipinos’ access to financial services, particularly among underprivileged parts of the community, while simultaneously encouraging economic growth. 

The strategic partnership is a step toward a more inclusive and resilient digital economy in the Asia-Pacific region. ADB and Mastercard aim to create new opportunities, promote long-term growth, and have a lasting impact on future generations by working closely together.

Speaking about the partnership, Simon Calasanz, country manager, Philippines, Mastercard, said, “Mastercard has an extensive history of supporting MSMEs, and is committed to further collaborating with ADB in the Philippines to drive greater financial inclusion, broaden credit access, and ensure a safe and secure digital ecosystem for the evolving landscape.” 

Meanwhile, Suzanne Gaboury, director general of ADB’s private sector operations department, stated, “Financial inclusion is at the heart of ADB’s mission to promote sustainable development. Through this partnership with Mastercard, we are increasing our efforts to expand access to financial services and unlock opportunities for marginalised communities in the Philippines, and across the region.” 

Manila, Philippines – BillEase, a consumer finance app in the Philippines, has closed an up to US$ 20m debt facility arranged by Helicap Securities, a Singapore-based financial technology company providing private debt investment opportunities for accredited and institutional investors, bringing the total raised by the lending platform to US$55m in debt and equity.

BillEase said that it is well positioned to further expand the reach of its financial services in a market where low-cost credit is not accessible enough for many consumers. The Philippines is amongst the emerging markets with low credit card penetration but has a tech-savvy and digitally-forward population, creating more growth opportunities and capturing a largely underserved market for the company.

Earlier this year, BillEase raised US$11m in a Series B round led by BurdaPrincipal Investments, the growth capital arm of German media and tech company Hubert Burda Media. Centauri – a joint investment vehicle of MDI Ventures and KB Investment, 33 Capital, and Raisin DS CEO Tamaz Georgadze also joined the round. While in March, BillEase also raised US$20m in secured debt from the UK-based Lendable, an emerging market credit provider, to further accelerate the growth of its lending products.

Georg Steiger, CEO and co-founder of BillEase, commented that they are delighted to have secured a new facility which will further grow and expand their loan portfolio, demonstrating the confidence private investors have in their sustained growth trajectory and profitability.

“Being able to collateralise our loan book allows us to access funding to continue serving our fast-growing, underserved customer base. Our new funding comes at the right time as we develop and launch new products and continue to see strong growth. At the same time maintaining profitability means we can be a sustainable and long-term partner for consumers and merchants,” Steiger said.

Meanwhile, Zhiwei Tan, executive director of Helicap Securities, said that they are excited to support BillEase’s growth with this debt facility, and they are impressed by the company’s growth over the past 3 years and its mission to further financial inclusion in the Philippines. 

“The rising acceptance of digital payments is changing the landscape of consumer lending and we are seeing BillEase as one of the few companies that can leverage and scale with the use of their AI-driven credit engine which allows them to offer consumer-centric, responsible financial products and highly personalized digital experience,” added Tan.

This year, BillEase has also launched its in-store QR payment to tap into payment transactions that usually happen offline as well as payment links which are now highly used in social commerce, allowing the company to offer an omnichannel shopping and payment experience for both customers and its merchants.

Jakarta, Indonesia – Technology group Gojek has announced its investment to technology-based Bank Jago as part of a strategic partnership for Indonesia’s accelerated financial inclusion.

Within the partnership, Gojek and Bank Jago aim to bring digital banking closer to users through Gojek’s payment platform GoPay. Users can now open a Bank Jago account and manage it through the Gojek app. The partnership will also act as a model through which Gojek will go on to partner with other banking institutions to support them in reaching more customers.

For Gojek CEO Andre Soelistyo, the newly-forged partnership is a strategic move to get banks working for the superapp, hence leveraging Gojek’s purpose to be an accessible financial platform for Indonesians.

“Our partnership with Jago marks the latest milestone in our drive to reduce daily friction for users and improve their lives through technology. It is a key part of our strategy and will underpin the growth and sustainability of our business in the long term. Jago’s tech-based banking solutions will supercharge Gojek’s ecosystem offerings and facilitate access to banking services for the mass market, thereby supporting our common vision to accelerate financial inclusion in Indonesia,” Soelistyo stated.

The investment, made through Gojek’s financial and investment arm, would mean that 22% of Bank Jago will be held by Gojek.

On the other hand, Bank Jago’s president director Kharim Siregar, expressed high hopes for the new partnership, as it complements the Bank’s broad expertise to Indonesian financial needs.

“We believe that this strategic collaboration – between a tech-based bank like Bank Jago and a Super App like Gojek – is the first of its kind in Indonesia and Southeast Asia and represents a new way to spur growth in digital economies. As a bank designed with an open API, we will go on to work with multiple digital ecosystems to reach a wider audience and drive our aspiration to enhance the finances of millions of people through digital financial solutions,” said Siregar.