Standard Chartered invests in technology hub

Scope International CEO Matthew Norris with Malaysian Minister of Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed. Source: Digital News Asia

As part of the Group strategy to improve its global business services (GBS) centers around the world, in addition to investing $3 billion over the next three years, Standard Chartered Group said it would invest $30 million into its global technology and operations hub in Malaysia, Scope International Sdn Bhd, reported by Digital News Asia.

“The investment will focus on.. technology, retail banking, private banking, wealth management and in improving the bank’s controls,”- Matthew Norris, CEO of Scope International Malaysia

Established in 2001, Scope International Malaysia is wholly owned by UK-based Standard Chartered Group and provides software development, banking operations, IT support services and customer services capabilities to the group in up to 70 markets, and has a total workforce of 5,000.

This is the third GBS centre – the other two are based in India and China.

Last October, Scope International Malaysia opened its Collective Intelligence and Command Centre (CnC), which involved a US$10-million investment.

Fintech opportunity

Norris doesn’t view fintech startups as a threat to the banking system, and is open to collaborating with fintech companies that share common objectives with the bank.

“Fintech is the new buzzword. We are investing on our own technology that will not only compete but complement fintech companies,”

A version of this appeared in Digital News Asia on June 28. Read the full article here.

fintech opportunity in Southeast Asia


South Korea is being left out of a global wave of fintech alliances due to its inward-focused strategy and a lack of deregulatory reforms to respond to market changes. But the country aims to become Asia’s fintech center by building a “fintech bridge” with major nations, especially to seize the opportunity in Southeast Asia.

South Korea is trying to catch up with the global trend. On June 15, the Fintech Center of Korea, an affiliate of South Korea’s Financial Services Commission, hosted a Fintech Demoday in Singapore to promote Korean fintech firms’ entry into Southeast Asia.

However, Korea’s approach to seize the fintech opportunity in Southeast Asia does not seem to be in the right direction from two aspects:

  1. The strategy is focused too much on exporting Korean fintech abroad, rather than creating a financial innovation ecosystem through regulatory reforms and cooperation with other countries.
  2. Direct discussions are not being held among regulators. For meaningful alliances to create a more vibrant fintech ecosystem, it is important to clear regulatory hurdles through binding agreements between financial regulators.

Jeffrey Jones, an international lawyer specializing in finance comments,

It is very sad that we have one of the most tech-savvy populations on the globe, but the legal and regulatory system prevents this population from developing products and services that could create jobs for so many young people.

Such concern comes as global financial centers such as Singapore, Australia and the UK have joined hands to bolster the fintech industry and solidify their leadership position as global financial hubs. On June 16, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission signed a contract to boost cooperation on financial innovation.

In May, Singapore and the UK also agreed to form a “fintech bridge” to foster financial innovation.

A version of this appeared in Korean Times on June 22. Read the full article here.

BRI Launches Satellite

Source: Sindonews

Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), the country’s second-largest lender by assets, launched BRISat — a commercial telecommunication satellite — to connect 10,650 BRI branches across the archipelago digitally over the next few years.

The bank plans to transform itself into the biggest digital banking network in Indonesia by 2019. BRISat is the first satellite owned and operated by a bank. Traditionally, banks all over the world rent satellite services from telco companies to support their operations.

“We will develop a number of financial applications and make the most out of our new satellite to make BRI more efficient,” said Asmawi Syam, the President/Director of BRI — which specializes in providing loans for small and medium enterprises.

The $250 million satellite was launched by the world’s leading satellite launch company Arianespace from the Guiana Space Center — Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will be stationed at a geostationary orbit above Papua.

Connecting the economy across the islands

Asmawi said BRI is now more than ready to compete in digital banking against counterparts in the region, ahead of the semi-integrated financial market for ASEAN member countries — scheduled to be open by 2020.

Muliaman D. Hadad, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, or OJK, said the satellite should benefit the whole of Indonesia’s banking sector.

BRI has around 50 million customers all over Indonesia and operates more than 9,800 conventional outlets, which include head offices, branch and sub-branch offices and SME loan outlets. It also offers more than 100,000 e-Channel outlets.

The scale of the lender’s operations means it needs network support from 23 satellite transponders. In the past, the bank’s satellite-based communication network has been relying on services from 9 satellite service providers in Indonesia.

BRI had been spending about Rp 500 billion per year to rent satellites. Buying the BRISat outright is equivalent to the cost of renting satellites for 7 years. The satellite maker promises BRI it can use BRISat for at least 17 years.

A version of this appeared in Jakarta Globe on June 20. Read the full article here.

Take Down Traditional Finance Companies


FinAccel is a new company that aims to take down traditional finance companies proposing a different approach: enabling a credit line for online purchases.

The company is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and essentially acts as a layer between its credit card and lending company partners and consumers buying online.

Started last year by Akshay Garg, who founded ad tech firm Komli, ex-McKinsey consultant Umang Rustagi, and Alie Tan, formerly of a number of startups, the company has raised an undisclosed seed round, which TechCrunch understands to be more than $1 million, led by Jungle Ventures to get started.

The idea behind FinAccel is to disrupt the credit industry by enabling consumers to reap the benefits with a model that fits today’s digital era.

Initially in Indonesia only, customers have 30 days to repay the amount at no added cost, but the startup is planning to introduce credit card-style payback plans soon.

We are basically putting a virtual credit in hands of five to 10 million people in next five years[…].

We want to go hard against the consumer finance companies,” Garg said. “There’s a crazy amount of bullshit marketing in the industry today” justifying the willingness to take down traditional finance companies

The goal, he explained, is more than just beating existing finance companies, FinAccel wants to unlock new consumer spending opportunities, particularly in the ecommerce space.

FinAccel has plans to be present across Southeast Asia’s six main countries with an expansion that will likely kick off next year starting with Thailand.

The lack of credit cards in emerging markets like Southeast Asia is one of the major hurdles that online commerce companies are facing.

A version of this appeared in TechCruch on June 1. Read the full article here.

Facebook is targeting social commerce payments in Southeast Asia with a new trial that allows users to pay for products listed on Facebook Pages with just a few clicks.

The social network is running a trial in Thailand which allows users to make a payment to a Page owner without leaving the social network.

Qwik is a product powered by Southeast Asia-based fintech company 2C2P, one of the most popular payment solutions tailored for the local needs of Asian and international businesses operating in Asia Pacific. Qwik allows users to make payment via a credit card, debit card or bank transfer online, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the trial.

Social dominance in Asia is already well known and its influence extends to commerce, with many small and independent retailers using Facebook Pages to build and engage their audience and, of course, sell products.

The process of buying from social – browsing, reaching the seller through the message button, requesting bank account details, doing the transfer on an ATM, etc. – is hugely cumbersome for the customer in emerging markets as majority do not own credit cards, nor are familiar with internet banking but the fact is, people are so keen to buy online that they’ll jump through all types of hoops to do so.

This trial, which is somewhere in the alpha stage, is an early indicator of Facebook’s intent to keep all the processes of the social commerce transaction on its platform. Either way, this trial is the loudest signal to date of Facebook’s interest in social commerce payments in Southeast Asia and potentially other parts of Asia and emerging markets. The company has already dabbled with commerce with a feature to let users find local services which is currently being tested in India and Indonesia. While the technology behind Qwik is hardly revolutionary, entering the payment space is a major move.

A version of this appeared in Tech Crunch on June 9. Read the full article here.

Southeast Asia fintech opportunity

Source : Bidness etc

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s financial affiliate is planning to purchase a 20 percent stake in Thailand’s Ascend Money in a bid to seize Southeast Asia fintech opportunity. Investment in fintech startups in Asia reached US$797 million in 2014.

An investment into Ascend Money, parent of True Money and Ascend Nano, would help Ant Financial expand its online payments and small loans business in Southeast Asia.

Ant Financial, which is said to be valued at about $60 billion, is following billionaire Ma’s aspirations for global expansion. The Ascend Nano unit is a microfinance and personal loans provider with staff throughout Southeast Asia. True Money provides cash cards and electronic wallets, and holds financial-services licenses in key Southeast Asian markets. The division’s goal is to spread ecommerce and electronic payments services to places where many users lack bank accounts such as Myanmar and Indonesia. This could pave the way for Alipay to dominate Southeast Asia’s payment problem.

A version of this appeared in Bloomberg on June 18. Read the full article here.