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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.”

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Marketing Featured APAC

Citigroup to end consumer business in 10 APAC markets including PH, MY, VT

USA – New York-headquartered global financial services giant Citigroup has recently announced that it will be pursuing exits from its consumer franchises in 13 markets, where 10 come from the Asia Pacific region. 

In its latest financial results for the first quarter of the year, Citigroup revealed that as part of its strategic actions for its global consumer banking, it has now decided to direct its focus to just four markets in Asia and EMEA, namely, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE, and London. As a result of this, it is marking the end of its consumer business in all the other markets in the two regions which include APAC units in Australia, China, India, and Indonesia as well as Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines, and in Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Meanwhile, in EMEA, it will be exiting Bahrain, Poland, and Russia. 

Citigroup said that while this is the case, its Institutional Clients Group will continue to serve clients in the said markets, which remain important to Citi’s global network. The company said the move will allow Citi to direct investments and resources to businesses where it has the greatest scale and growth potential.

Its CEO, Jane Fraser, said that the ongoing refresh of the company’s strategy pushes them to double down on wealth. The markets it retained, she continued, positions the company to capture strong growth and attractive returns the wealth management business offers through the four important hubs.

“While the other 13 markets have excellent businesses, we don’t have the scale we need to compete. We believe our capital, investment dollars, and other resources are better deployed against higher returning opportunities in wealth management and our institutional businesses in Asia,” said Fraser. 

For the first quarter of 2021, Citigroup reported a net income of $7.9B, a jump compared to its net income of $2.5B in the same period in 2020.

“It’s been a better than expected start to the year, and we are optimistic about the macro environment. We are committed to serving our clients through the recovery and positioning the bank for a period of sustained growth,” said Fraser. 

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Marketing Featured East Asia

BOCHK releases new premium Private Wealth service for high net worth customers

Hong Kong – Bank of China in Hong Kong (BOCHK) has launched a new premium Private Wealth service, which offers prestigious and personalized wealth management solutions to high net worth customers. 

BOCHK said that its high-end customer base has been expanding steadily in recent years as the number of customers with a net asset value of over HK$8M grows more than 10% each year. 

The new service aims to help these clients maximize their wealth and preserve their legacy, offering asset allocation solutions that include investment, insurance, equities, cross-border wealth management, mortgage, among others. 

Through the premium service, BOCHK also aims to assist customers in planning for their children’s finances, offering a variety of legacy planning and protection solutions, including consultation services for wealth inheritance and exclusive life insurance offerings. 

Stephen Chan, general manager of Personal Banking and Wealth Management Department of BOCHK, said that wealth management has always been one of the key businesses for BOCHK.

“We see a greater need for professional investment and insurance services as well as financial management analysis among this particular customer group. Their asset allocation mix consists of about 40% investment products, of which the majority are securities and funds,” he said.

The service is compose of an exclusive team of wealth management experts. The cross-border component of the service includes addressing customers’ needs for traveling, property purchase, and investment, including cross-border mortgage consultation services and Greater Bay Area financing solutions.

BOCHK has also shared that it will soon launch RM Chat, a service that enables customers to communicate with BOCHK service team through mobile banking, allowing designated relationship managers to address customers’ transaction requests.

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

MY’s Hong Leong Bank first bank to open a store on Shopee

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia’s Hong Leong Bank (HLB), has launched its online store on the popular e-commerce platform Shopee, making it the first bank in Malaysia to do so.

Through the Shopee online store, customers can sign up for banking products and services without the need to visit any of the bank’s physical branches. The initiative is part of HLB’s journey in fully providing digital banking solutions to meet the rising digital consumption. Last October, the Bank launched the country’s first fully digital account onboarding through mobile app ‘Apply@HLB’, which leverages e-Know-Your-Customer ([eKYC]) technology.

Three bank services are currently available on Shopee, namely Hong Leong Basic Savings Account, Hong Leong 3in1 Junior Account, and Hong Leong Pay&Save Account.

“The Bank’s digital-at-the-core strategy has helped in reimagining banking experiences, leading us to focus on a digital growth trajectory to make banking much more accessible and improve customer experiences. The success of eKYC has set the foundation for us to explore new opportunities in better serving customers on digital-only channels,” said Domenic Fuda, group managing director and CEO of HLB.

Meanwhile, Charles Sik, HLB’s MD of personal financial services reiterates that the move towards digital platforms is in response to customer shift to online activities.

“Offering banking products on e-commerce is a natural progression for us as customers shift their spending and consumption behavior online. We are excited to have a presence on this platform where customers can open an HLB account without visiting our other channels. As a start, we are offering bank accounts with other types of banking products coming in the near future,” Sik said.

Galvin Yeo, HLB’s GM for personal financial services for deposits & digital, commented that Malaysians have developed a natural proficiency in navigating e-commerce platforms with the shift to digital and mobile-first lifestyles. 

“The banking industry is playing catch up in the digital game considering you can get most essential items online or via e-commerce, [and] we are excited to reach out and serve customers on e-commerce sites. This will also challenge the Bank to constantly update and innovate our offerings to be exciting and relevant,” Yeo said.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

WATCH: RHB Bank’s new CNY-themed ad an adage to undying parental love

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – As the Chinese New Year draws near, Malaysia-based RHB Bank has released its Chinese New Year-themed film ad titled ‘Love Carries On’, a tear-jerker story centered on the importance of parental love.

Based on the true story of a father and daughter from Sibu, Sarawak, the film focuses on the graduation speech of Ngu Nyok Ping, the daughter, as she reflects on the past memories she had with her father carrying her in his back. Due to her disability, rendering her unable to walk, her father has been constantly carrying her to school so that she can continue receiving education. The film also showed the father-daughter tandem enjoying the passing of Chinese New Year festivities each year.

Despite the threat of the disability to Nyok Ping’s future, the film showed how her father’s incredible actions of love paid off, helping her obtain her master’s degree. Today, Nyok Ping dedicates her life to helping fellow disabled members of her community. 

The real life version of the characters in the film, (left) Ngu Ee Kiong, the father and (center) Ngu Nyok Ping, the daughter, seen here after her 2016 graduation of her master’s degree from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS)

“There may be times we find ourselves faced with an obstacle too big to overcome on our own or a dream too far for us to reach, but with the unconditional support and love from those around us, we will realize that we’re never truly alone in our journeys. It’s in them that we will find the strength to progress and succeed,” said Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, group chief marketing officer of RHB Group.

“That message is the bedrock of this film, and it’s especially relevant now because even as we are preparing to usher in the Chinese New Year, many of us are still faced with the waves of challenges brought upon by the pandemic. This spot aims to remind Malaysians that they’re never alone during these times, and it encapsulates what RHB’s brand promise of ‘Together We Progress’ means amazingly well,” added Murad.

The film, created by advertising agency FCB Malaysia, has been shared across RHB Bank’s social media pages. To date, the film has raked in more than six million views, 15,000 likes, and 1,500 shares across RHB’s social media platforms.

For FCB Malaysia creative director Tjer Wang, the story is described to be “unbelievably out of this world and profound.” The agency made sure that as the story is being adapted, the core message remains. 

“We spent a good amount of time on fact-checking just to ensure that it was real and not fiction. It was retold and reimagined just as beautifully in the most effortless manner, despite the tremendous amount of depth that it carries,” Wang stated.

Meanwhile, Ong Shi Ping, co-owner and chief creative officer of FCB Malaysia commented that the film speaks to a deeper meaning of parental love, stating that the film showed a parent’s determination to lead his child in the right direction despite the given circumstances.

“Not only did this amazing dad keep his belief in his daughter’s capabilities, he also did what not many people could or would do to guide her in finding her own place in the world. And because of that, Ms. Ngu managed to achieve the kind of success that most of us can only dream of. It’s a truly remarkable story about progress,” Ping stated.

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Marketing Featured South Asia

Paytm’s New Year film spotlights brand’s commitment to Indian households

India – India’s Paytm, financial services and e-commerce company, has unveiled its new year film, which showcases a culmination of how the brand’s service has helped every Indian household through the challenging past year brought about by the pandemic.

The film shows glimpses of its host of products and services that use digital technology aimed at improving consumers’ lives, including instant money transfers through the Paytm app, its voice-activated POS (point-of-sale) machine Paytm Soundbox, and mobile payment service Paytm All-in-One QR for the business of merchants.

The brand said the campaign, which is called ‘#Har Ghar ka, Desh bhar ka — Paytm, Proudly Indian’ – which means ‘Of every household, across the country’ – aims to act as a message of hope for the new year ahead, reaffirming its commitment to support all citizens as the nation enters a new year. 

Vice President for Product Marketing Abhinav Kumar said, “2020 as a year saw difficulties come in various ways. The world for once felt the same throughout — fear, anxiety, and many other emotions that swept across. Over the years, Paytm has been present in people’s lives and tried to make a difference in the best way possible. During these unprecedented times, we are glad to be a small agent of help which bridged the gap for many.” 

“‘Har ghar ka, Desh Bhar ka’ is our ode to the many who fought through these tough times and moved forward with courage. The new year brings in new hope and we would like to believe the best is yet to come,” Kumar added. 

Some of the brand’s dedicated COVID programs over the year included distributing hygiene essentials to frontline workers, and serving over 4.4 million meals to daily wage earners in the areas of Noida, Mumbai, Bengaluru, as well as Hyderabad, and Chennai. 

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Main Feature Platforms Southeast Asia

Singapore financial content platform GoBear says goodbye after 5 years in operation

Singapore – A sad news surprised many on Tuesday – GoBear, financial services and data platform in Asia, has decided to cease operations, breaking the announcement on a LinkedIn post

GoBear, which started its operations in 2015, revealed on the post that the pandemic has created a challenging operating environment, where despite the company’s best efforts, is unable to raise more funding. 

“It’s with a heavy heart that today we’re sharing that GoBear will be ceasing operations and begin the process of closing the business,” wrote the company. 

It further said, “It’s been quite a ride with the opening of new markets, launching new products, and building our financial services and data platform one step at a time.”

GoBear as a financial services platform assists users in their financial decision-making through comparison guides of different financial products such as credit cards, home loans, travel insurance, and home insurance. It also offers definitive guides on working around bank accounts, personal loans, and credit cards, among others. 

“Our purpose is to improve your financial health so that, together, we can build secure, stable, and sustainable communities. And we’re going to do that by making financial literacy, financial inclusion, and financial security attainable for everyone!” it says on its bio. 

As of current, the platform has presence in seven markets. Having founded in 2014 in its headquarters Singapore, the platform launched in the Lion City and Thailand in 2015. The year after, GoBear expanded to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam, and finally launching in Indonesia in 2018. 

“We had amazing employees, partners, vendors, and fans along the way that made our accomplishments possible,” concluded the company in the post. 

“Thank you to everybody who believed in us and has been part of our journey,” it said.