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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

TNG Digital’s RM750m funding round to expand digital financial services

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – TNG Digital, owner and operator of Touch ‘n Go eWallet, has raised RM750m from its latest equity funding, which will be used to expand its digital financial services.

The equity funding was made through an investment by the Lazada Group, as well as from its parent company Touch ‘n Go Group. This new investment solidifies the collaboration between key segment leaders, one in e-commerce and one in digital financial services and payments.

Effendy Shahul Hamid, group chief executive officer at Touch ‘n Go Group, said, “I’m extremely pleased to welcome Lazada to the Touch ‘n Go eWallet family. We feel this collaboration will bring next-level value propositions to users and merchant bases across the Lazada and Touch ‘n Go ecosystem. I look forward to seeing the teams roll out these exciting collaboration opportunities to our users.”

Meanwhile, Alan Chan, chief executive officer at Lazada Malaysia, commented, “We see digital payment services as a critical bolt-on to bring the best customer experience on Lazada. Lazada is fully committed to providing a seamless customer journey, as well as being a catalyst to stimulate capacity building among our sellers, primarily local SMEs and MSMEs.” 

He added, “Our long-standing partnership with Touch ‘n Go eWallet has served our customers well, allowing buyers to check out easily and quickly. Today’s announcement fortifies that partnership and we are excited by the prospects it presents for both our companies.”

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Marketing Featured South Asia

DreamStart Labs, BRAC Bank partner to provide digital financial services to unbanked women in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Fintech DreamStart Labs and commercial bank BRAC Bank in Bangladesh have announced a partnership to provide digital financial services to unbanked women in Bangladesh. This partnership will see BRAC Bank using technology from DreamStart Labs to help women in rural communities access affordable small business loans.

Through this partnership, unbanked women in Bangladesh will be using the DreamSave app from DreamStart Labs to create informal community savings groups. As members use DreamSave, the technology will generate data-driven credit scores that make it easy for BRAC Bank and its microfinance institution (MFI) partners to offer digital financial services with greater security, transparency, and efficiency. The use of the DreamSave app will facilitate BRAC Bank’s expansion of its MFI business portfolio in Bangladesh.

Moreover, BRAC Bank and DreamStart Labs will be expanding the use of the DreamSave app with savings groups under the USAID-funded Nobo Jatra project, implemented by World Vision in southwest Bangladesh.

Syed Abdul Momen, deputy managing director and head of SME banking at BRAC Bank, said, “DreamStart Labs offers market-leading innovation from Silicon Valley to help unbanked women break the cycle of poverty. BRAC Bank is pleased to partner with DreamStart Labs for this important initiative.”

Meanwhile, Wes Wasson, CEO of DreamStart Labs, commented, “BRAC Bank is the market leader in banking solutions for underserved entrepreneurs. DreamStart Labs is delighted to work with BRAC Bank to bring our innovative technology to unbanked women in Bangladesh.”

In March 2022, BRAC Bank has also partnered with Singapore’s consumer bank DBS, aimed at allowing Bangladeshi migrants working in Singapore to easily transfer their hard-earned income to their families back home, with minimal fees and in real-time by using DBS Remit, a remittance service integrated within the digital banking platform, DBS digibank.

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

Episode Six strikes new deal with Galaxy FinX to provide modern financial services and digital solutions in Vietnam

Vietnam – Global payment and banking infrastructure provider, Episode Six, has announced a new relationship with Galaxy FinX, Vietnam’s newest fintech builder that is re-shaping the future of money and banking in the country. The deal represents two firsts for Episode Six: a partnership in Vietnam as well as with a pure-play virtual bank builder in the Southeast Asia region.

Galaxy FinX selected Episode Six to provide modern cloud-based card and payment processing, which includes consumer credit and debit card services as well as connections to Vietnam’s domestic financial switch services. Just as Episode Six’s Tritium platform helps traditional banks innovate and offer digital solutions, it is also purpose-built to deliver key capabilities to virtual and digital banks. Tritium offers a multi-asset class digital wallet management system that can open gateways to card scheme processing and transfers across bank networks, including ATMs and Point of Sale (POS) devices.

John Mitchell, CEO and co-founder of Episode Six, “Episode Six is proud to be working with Galaxy FinX, which is our first partnership in Vietnam and our first with an entirely virtual bank builder in Southeast Asia.”

Mitchell added, “There is tremendous growth potential for digital-only banking in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia, where millions of consumers and small businesses remain unbanked or underbanked. Our technology is ideally suited to helping pioneers like Galaxy FinX design and deliver products that meet the needs of digitally-native customers in Vietnam and beyond.”

As a virtual-bank builder, Galaxy FinX will offer financial-service products, such as savings, lending, payments, and insurance, digitally to Vietnam’s growing consumer base. Episode Six will provide a market-tested backbone for Galaxy FinX’s card services, allowing the new company to process payments and configure products to adapt to changing market conditions. Partnering with Episode Six also gives Galaxy FinX the flexibility to grow its business and focus on customers and evolving market dynamics rather than on underlying tech developments.

Marcin Miller, CEO of Galaxy FinX, commented, “Episode Six has a proven track record of its payments technology globally and in Asia-Pacific. Vietnam is growing to become a digital economy and Episode Six’s modern cloud-based card and payment processing platform will enable us to develop better digital propositions to serve the needs of the local market and our customers.”

“We look forward to exploring opportunities with Episode Six as we continue to expand our products and services in Vietnam and across other markets in Southeast Asia in the future,” Miller adds.

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Marketing Featured East Asia

Strategic comms firm Ashbury announces two new appointments for HK

Hong Kong – Ashbury, the strategic communications firm dedicated to serving financial service companies, has announced two new appointments for its Hong Kong office namely Ellin Choy as associate director of Ashbury’s advisory team and Jason Wincuinas as associate director, senior writer and editor.

Choy was previously with Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab in Asia-Pacific as a programme lead. Through that role, she managed relationships with over 60 partners and provided counsel and advice to participating fintechs. In her new role at Ashbury, she will be working closely with Noel Cheung, director of advisory at Ashbury.

Meanwhile, Wincuinas joins from think-tank group Economist Impact, previously known as the Economist Intelligence Unit, where he had been a senior editor since 2018. In his previous role, he has worked extensively with financial clients on research-driven projects focused on technology and ESG.

Adam Harper, managing director at Ashbury, said, “Ellin and Jason are both talented individuals who bring valuable skills and experience to our clients across our advisory and content offerings. As Ashbury celebrates its second anniversary, our ability to attract colleagues of this calibre reflects our strong momentum and the way that our proposition resonates with clients.”

Ashbury has updated its clientele base in the past few months, retaining global independent investment bank Houlihan Lokey, as well as Eventus Systems, a multi-asset class trade surveillance, market risk and transaction monitoring systems provider. Ashbury has also signed recently a contract with Episode Six, a payments technology firm.

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

Maybank launches SME-centric business banking app to aid in digital transformation

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia’s banking group Maybank has launched its newest business banking app ‘Maybank2u Biz’ which aids SMEs in their digital transformation journey, specifically in their business banking needs.

Said app was developed to cater to the needs of busy business owners, who are always on the go and managing multiple tasks. It is suitable for partnerships, private limited companies, professional firms, educational institutions, clubs, society and associations.

Some of the features include the ‘Maker-Checker’ authorization process for transactions have also been simplified for efficient on-the-go approving without compromising on transparency; and the ‘invoicing tool’ which allows business owners to create, issue, and track invoices, as well can be customized using ready-to-use templates, and sent out to their customers via various communication channels such as email and chat messaging applications on their mobile devices.

“Running a business is very complex and it is even more challenging during these extraordinary circumstances. Hence, we have designed Maybank2u Biz to be more than just a banking application, but a business companion that will help ease SMEs’ burden and empower them to drive their businesses forward. We have made it simple, because entrepreneurs should be spending more time making strategic decisions instead of managing daily operations,” said Datuk Abdul Farid Alias, group president and chief executive officer.

He also added that they believe in the power of information and have made key financial data easy to access and understand for the SMEs, further stating that client SMEs can get a full view of their accounts in Maybank on the dashboard of the application, which allows them to make quick assessments of the business’ financial health at a glance. 

“At the same time, they are also able to download a year’s worth of cash flow data in spreadsheet format (CSV) on-demand, without having to wait for the traditional month-end statements. With the information, business owners can now plan ahead, make better decisions, or even spot potential red flags in their cash flow early. As with all Maybank digital solutions, security is paramount to us. We have introduced Secure2u to Maybank2u Biz to safeguard their transactions and give them peace of mind,” Datuk Farid added.

The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and Apple AppStore today. 

Existing Maybank business customers can just download the application and log in with their Maybank2u Biz ID and password to start using it immediately and seamlessly, with the data from all their Maybank accounts automatically made available in the new application. 

For non-Maybank customers, they can open a Maybank business account online via Maybank2u, with only a single trip to the branch to activate the account. Once activated, they may start using the application, and have access to all the banking features and business tools within.

“The launch of Maybank2u Biz reaffirms Maybank’s commitment to support SMEs. With its intuitive interface, easy navigation, and useful business tools, we believe Maybank2u Biz will be well received by SMEs, as Maybank currently serves 58% of the SMEs in Malaysia. This is just the first phase of the application; we will continue to enhance it and bring in more features that will help SMEs power up their businesses,” he concluded.

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Marketing Featured ANZ

AU’s financial services firm AMP unveils new brand positioning in new campaign with Bastion

Australia – Financial services company AMP has partnered with strategic marketing and communications agency Bastion, to launch its new investment-focused advertising campaign that recognizes the importance of investing for all Australians.

AMP is a wealth management company with a growing retail banking business and investment management business. It provides retail clients with financial advice and superannuation, and retirement income, as well as banking, and investment products.

Titled ‘For the investor in all of us’, the campaign film highlights AMP’s focus on a diverse and broader customer base while reaffirming its 172-year heritage of supporting Australians. The key objective of the communications is to remind consumers of who AMP is and what it offers.

The company said that the creative and media strategy involves communicating the brand message to drive mass awareness of AMP’s new investment position, and beginning in October 2021, it will also be introducing product messaging to showcase the proof of products and services behind the new positioning.

Ben Lyttle, AMP’s chief strategy officer, noted this new brand position reflects an important truth about AMP, their products, and Australians.

“When we played it back to consumers, we saw a significant shift in how they perceived themselves, their money, and AMP. A shift that made them feel better about themselves and about the role of AMP in Australia. It made them think differently about their financial decisions too. It led to the idea to acknowledge the investor in all of us. It’s a simple reframing but a powerful demonstration that everything we do is an investment for a better tomorrow,” said Lyttle.

Meanwhile, Kath O’Shea, the client services director at Bastion, commented, “We couldn’t be prouder to have worked with the exceptional team at AMP to bring this new campaign to life, and the inclusive focus is something that particularly resonated with our team.”

The new campaign is available in mass reach channels such as TV, online video, and large and small format outdoor, as well as radio, and social.

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SME Featured Southeast Asia

SG-based Opal to offer short-term financing solutions to SMEs via Funding Societies tie-up

Singapore – Two financial services platforms dedicated to SMEs in Asia – Opal and Funding Societies – have partnered to offer Opal’s ecosystem of clients and partners in Singapore a range of financing solutions. Funding Societies specializes in providing short-term financing to SMEs, and needless to say that this will be one of the main offerings of the partnership. 

Opal is currently operating solely in Singapore and it aims to be the unified account for all of SMEs’ payments and loans in the country. It eyes to help businesses accelerate growth by simplifying cross-border payments, maximizing cost savings, and providing easier and cheaper access to trade financing & credit facilities.

Under the partnership with Funding Societies, Opal will offer Funding Societies’ range of solutions such as micro loans, term loans, and invoice financing, at a relatively lower rate and a quicker processing time. Further, to reduce the financial burden on SMEs in Singapore, Opal and Funding Societies will reduce processing fees on all disbursals up to 50% of the loan amount and offer a full waiver of the facility fee on all line products. This is alongside Opal’s main solutions of cross-border money transfer and multi-currency accounts.

Lim Ming Wang, co-founder of Opal, refers to a study by Singapore’s MAS where growth of businesses in the Lion City is forecast to be robust but uneven in 2021. 

“As a company that is focused on SMEs in Singapore, we want to be able to assist businesses at their time of growth who are looking for solutions to strengthen their cash flow,” said Lim. 

Lim adds, “We are excited about this partnership as businesses can now have access to multi-currency management, payments, and financing solutions from a single platform on Opal. As our technology is driven by the interconnectivity of these different financial-business solutions, companies will get even better rates and faster turnaround times.”

Meanwhile, Shrawan Saraogi, head of partnerships and products at Funding Societies, commented, “As a FinTech founded with the mission to uplift economies, we believe in helping SMEs obtain access to financing solutions that are easy and fair. We want to help them by providing the impetus for growth. I believe this partnership is ideal, as we would be able to support Opal’s ecosystem of clients and partners with our wide range of growth financing solutions.”

Opal is licensed in Singapore, but has clients and client counterparties in Europe, the US, Israel, and the rest of SEA.

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Platforms Featured APAC

One in four of APAC consumers on the hunt for new finserv providers

Singapore – As the financial services industry in the Asia-Pacific region has reached maturity and high adaptability, around 22% of consumers in the region are stating that they eye switch financial service providers, with 48% of the respondents saying that they are inclined to use digital banks instead, new data from experience management (XM) company Qualtrics shows.

According to their latest report, 25% of those aged under 40 and 21% of 41-50 year olds say they plan to change who they bank with over the next year. In contrast, just 14% of people aged over 50 plan to switch banking providers. Similar results are seen in insurance, as 29% of people aged under 40 are likely to switch, compared to 27% of 41-50 year olds with20% of those aged over 50.

Qualtrics notes that the product and customer experience consistently ranked in the top reasons driving trust in providers, and the reasons for choosing digital-only offerings. Alongside competitive rates and brand perception, the quality of the mobile app and website, products, and customer service are also some of the top factors driving trust in the industry. 

In addition, consumers said they were opting for digital-only offerings for better customer experience, lower fees and charges, flexible products, higher returns, and more personalization.

“While Asia Pacific is a hotbed of innovation and opportunity for financial service providers – from traditional players through to emerging fintechs – what’s clear from our research is that share of wallet is dependent on the quality of the physical and digital experiences provided. Consumers are actively hunting for products, services, and engagements tailored for their rapidly changing needs and preferences,” said Harish Agarwal, head of customer experience solutions and strategy for Qualtrics in Southeast Asia, India, and Greater China.

He added that this means organizations that are able to quickly listen, understand, and act on customer feedback will have a significant advantage.

The report also stated that despite two-thirds of respondents saying they were satisfied with their banking provider (68% of respondents) and health/life insurer (65% of respondents), a significant portion of consumers are still looking to switch, as 22% are planning to change who they bank with, and 27% are looking to change their insurance provider.

Regarding service feedback, around 69% of respondents said it was very important their provider captures ongoing feedback from them regarding products and services – and that most especially, feedback is acted on. Meanwhile, 48% of respondents said it was unlikely they’d purchase from a provider in the future if the organization failed to respond to their feedback.

Consumers are also moving away from traditional providers when it comes to investing, with 73% saying they adopted digital channels to meet their needs, such as online brokers, fintech apps, and digital wealth management solutions. Younger consumers are consistently the most willing to engage non-traditional providers.

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Technology Featured APAC

BPI’s digital enabler Mobiquity expands to APAC

Sydney, Australia – Mobiquity, a digital transformation enabler that has helped clients digitize their services such as those of Philippine banking institution BPI, has announced that it will be expanding its services across the Asia Pacific region.

The expansion of Mobiquity’s service offering into APAC is supported by its existing client base in banking and financial services. The company has recently received a Global Banking and Finance Award for its work with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) – creating a digital banking experience for the bank’s online and mobile platforms.

As part of its APAC expansion, it has also appointed former Microsoft and IBM director, Gustavo Quiroga, as vice president of business development financial services at APAC.

Quiroga will be responsible for strengthening Mobiquity’s global footprint, working with customers across Australia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. He has managed and developed technology, business and customer experience projects from his industry experience from IBM and Microsoft.

“I’m delighted to join Mobiquity and support the company’s rapid expansion across the Asia-Pacific region. I joined Mobiquity to develop, design, and implement digital products and services that create meaningful experiences with customers. Giving customers a ‘Wow’ moment is what drives me, and I look forward to using my expertise to develop partnerships where we can achieve this every day,” he said, regarding his appointment.

Meanwhile, Matthew Williamson, vice president of global financial services at Mobiquity, commented that their appointment of Quiroga demonstrates Mobiquity’s commitment to hiring an ‘A-list’ team of talent that have far-reaching industry expertise.

“Over the last 6 months, we’ve hired over 100 people, including the recent high profile appointments of Howard Moore, senior director of digital banking and Ruby Walia, senior advisor for digital banking for North America. The latest addition to the Mobiquity team supports our vision of global growth in Asia-Pacific, as a recognized partner within the banking and finance ecosystem,” he stated.

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SME Featured ANZ

Open banking platform BankiFi expands presence in Australia for SME support

Sydney, Australia – Realizing the need to serve its small-and-medium enterprise (SME) clients, UK-based open banking platform BankiFi has announced its expansion to the Australian market, fostering a new diversity in the country’s financial services ecosystem.

On top of the expansion, BankiFi has also appointed Lloyd Parata as the country manager for BankiFi in ANZ. He has been in the information technology industry for more than 25 years. He has spent more than 20 years as a sales director selling enterprise software solutions to banking institutions across Asia and ANZ.

BankiFi’s technology platform ensures banks remain relevant by offering SMEs an innovative solution to operate their business, whilst avoiding common challenges like late payment.

Parata explains that a combination of both regulation and advances in technology have lowered the point of entry enabling new entrants such as non-bank platforms like Stripe, Square and Shopify to erode bank revenues.

“For these new entrants, small businesses are the low hanging fruit, because they contribute massively to the economy, there are lots of them, and they have been underserviced thus far. However making payments is actually just a seat at the table. Small business owners now also expect reduction of the time they spend on manual administration and chasing late payments,” he stated.

BankiFi offers banks a set of configurable integrated services – accounting, invoicing, payments and cash forecasting – designed around the workflows of their small business customers, and embeds them in the most appropriate bank channel. The solution is built using a range of business microservices that small businesses can subscribe to.

Parata adds that small businesses are the backbone of Australia’s business landscape, accounting for 98% of all Australian businesses, and employing over 4.7 million people, more than 40% of the business workforce, making it Australia’s biggest employer.

“SMEs typically wait longer to get paid than bigger businesses, with late payments and time spent on burdensome financial management placing immense pressure on their survival. Being an SME ourselves, we wanted to create a service that helped business owners simplify collecting money from their customers, automate invoicing and bookkeeping, and to receive the money directly into their account – all through a mobile experience that reflects how they operate,” Parata commented.

He goes on to explain further that a lot of micro and small businesses suffer tremendously as a result of high transaction fees, delayed or late payments, complex financial admin tasks and cash-flow disruption. He also noted that when it comes to managing cash flow, small business owners tend to be stuck between two offerings within a bank: consumer functionality that is too basic, and commercial and/or treasury functionality that is too complex.

“Rising expectations from sole traders and micro-business owners ramp up the pressure for banks to step up and provide services they never did before, such as invoicing, reconciliation, and bookkeeping options. Dropping the ball right now may mean losing touch with a vital customer base — and, of course, there is no guarantee those customers will come back once they leave,” Parata added.

He concluded, “Small business has been desperate for a solution like BankiFi provides for far too long. By offering BankiFi to their small business customers, banks can help their customers manage their business while they can get on with doing what they do best.”