The fintech industry in Asia has been experiencing a wave of layoffs in 2023 as several companies grapple with economic uncertainties, market downturns, and the need for cost-cutting measures.
From Singapore to Hong Kong, prominent fintech players have been forced to make difficult decisions to streamline their operations and weather the storm. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key layoffs that have taken place and the reasons behind them.
January 5: Genesis Global Trading Inc. Streamlines Workforce
Genesis Global Trading Inc, a player in the cryptocurrency trading space, has undergone significant workforce reductions in 2023.
Following the previous year’s staff reduction of 20 percent, the company laid off approximately 30 percent of its workforce, affecting around 62 employees. These layoffs particularly impacted the sales and business development teams, including some in Singapore.
This streamlining effort aligns with Genesis Global Trading’s recent filing of a US$1.2 billion claim against Three Arrows Capital, a failed crypto hedge fund.
The challenges faced by the company in the cryptocurrency industry likely played a role in the necessity of these workforce reductions.
January 6: Huobi navigating the crypto winter
This decision was driven by the need to cut costs and navigate the challenges of the ongoing crypto winter. Founder Leon Li’s stake sale to Justin Sun, founder of Tron, coincided with the restructuring.
Additionally, Huobi experienced a US$85 million outflow of cryptocurrencies due to customer concerns about insolvency. These developments pose challenges for the company and present an opportunity for long-term success.
January 10: Coinbase takes strategic measures
In a move aimed at streamlining operations and refocusing its business strategy, Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, announced a significant reduction of approximately 950 employees, accounting for 20 percent of its workforce.
The company also decided to close most of its operations in Japan and shutter several projects. This move follows previous layoffs in June, where Coinbase cut 18 percent of its workforce (around 1,100 employees), and another smaller round in November, eliminating 60 positions.
January 13: Crypto.com adapting to market challenges
Crypto.com, a Singapore-based cryptocurrency company, has faced significant challenges amid the economic downturn in the crypto market.
In response, the company recently announced a reduction of approximately 20 percent of its global workforce, affecting around 490 employees. This marks the second round of major layoffs for Crypto.com since 2022.
The impact of FTX’s collapse, a prominent player in the crypto industry, further exacerbated Crypto.com’s operational difficulties, necessitating the need for workforce reductions.
To adapt to the current market landscape, Crypto.com shut down its institutional services on its platform in the United States starting on June 21. This move was prompted by a limited demand for these services, reflecting the evolving dynamics of the crypto market.
Singapore-based crypto services provider Matrixport announced a downsizing of 10 percent of its workforce, affecting approximately 29 employees.
The company, which had a global presence with over 290 employees across 40 countries, revealed that the job cuts would primarily impact the marketing department.
COO Cynthia Wu explained that the decision was part of a strategic realignment, as Matrixport aimed to shift its focus towards regulatory compliance.
Consequently, the company planned to bolster its teams in compliance, legal, and product development while reducing the workforce in marketing.
January 31: PayPal adapts to economic uncertainty
Global online payment system PayPal recently announced its plan to cut 7 percent of its workforce, totalling 2,000 employees.
This move comes as PayPal seeks to reduce operating costs due to decreased transactions caused by economic uncertainty and recession.
It marks the second round of layoffs for the company, following the first wave in May 2022.
March 3: Fazz focuses on core strengths
Indonesian fintech startup Fazz, formed from the merger of Indonesia’s Payfazz and Singapore’s Xfers, undertook a restructuring initiative in March.
While the company did not disclose the exact number of employees impacted, it emphasised that the focus of the layoffs was on shifting the company’s attention to its core strengths: payments, credit, and stablecoins.
Fazz provided affected employees with comprehensive support, including severance packages, healthcare benefits, and professional assistance for securing new employment opportunities.
March 10: GoTo’s ongoing restructuring efforts
GoTo, formed in 2021 through the merger of Indonesia’s Gojek and Tokopedia, has been undertaking a series of job cuts to consolidate its operations. In November 2022, the company laid off around 12 percent of its workforce, affecting 1,300 jobs.
In a subsequent round of layoffs, GoTo announced another 600 job cuts. The company aims to streamline its merchant services team by merging various units, aligning with its vision for a unified and efficient approach.
March 21: XanPool navigates global market turbulence
Hong Kong-based crypto payments platform XanPool faced the impact of global market turbulence and a lack of funding options for startups, leading to a layoff of nearly 40 employees.
This significant reduction in staff size, coupled with the closure of offices in Singapore and Malaysia, highlights the challenges fintech companies face in expanding their reach.
XanPool had planned to expand into Latin America but put those plans on hold due to the job cuts.
March 31: Endowus faces market headwinds
Endowus, a Singapore-based fintech platform that provides investment solutions, recently faced a workforce reduction, with less than 10 percent of its employees being affected.
The decision to downsize was driven by a decline in the financial markets and the technology sector in the previous year.
The news of the layoffs was announced to the employees on March 30, with the affected individuals receiving a severance package. Additionally, the company has implemented measures to cut costs, including a voluntary salary reduction by the management team and a slowdown in hiring.
April 5: Oriente funding challenges and restructuring
Oriente, a Hong Kong-based fintech firm operating digital lending platforms Cashalo in the Philippines and Finmas in Indonesia has faced significant challenges due to a funding crunch and the impact of the pandemic on its offline lending business.
The company had to make the difficult decision to lay off numerous employees and shut down its Vietnam operations. Furthermore, it significantly scaled back its business unit in Indonesia.
These actions were driven by the company’s fundraising difficulties and the need to realign its efforts with the evolving market conditions.
April 7: ZestMoney navigates choppy waters
Bengaluru-based buy now pay later platform, ZestMoney, faced a challenging period as an acquisition deal with PhonePe fell through. To address the difficulties, the fintech company announced a workforce reduction of around 20 percent, impacting approximately 100 employees.
The setback came after PhonePe put the acquisition deal on hold in late March due to concerns during the due diligence. Initially valued between US$200 million to US$300 million, the deal was anticipated to be a significant step forward for ZestMoney.
Since its establishment in 2015 by Lizzie Chapman, Priya Sharma, and Ashish Anantharaman, ZestMoney has garnered support from Goldman Sachs. However, the company recently encountered a funding crunch, prompting it to explore potential acquisitions with Pine Labs and BharatPe.
Indian fintech startup Simpl, a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) firm, initiated significant layoffs to curb costs and extend its financial runway.
The BNPL Soonicorn fired an undisclosed number of employees. However, media outlets have reported between 120 and 150 people were impacted by the layoffs despite recent successful funding rounds and significant user growth.
These layoffs are part of Simpl’s strategy to respond to the current economic conditions and maintain a leaner, more agile organisation.
April 25: Open optimising operations for profitability
Neo-banking platform Open, a fintech unicorn backed by Singapore state investor Temasek, recently underwent a significant restructuring effort. The company based in Bengalaru laid off 47 employees as part of its plan to optimise operations and achieve profitability.
The founders of Open, Anish Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, Ajeesh Achuthan, and Deena Jacob, also took a 50 percent pay cut in alignment with the company’s goal of becoming a profitable venture.
The layoffs and pay cuts are strategic measures to ensure Open can adapt and weather the economic uncertainties while remaining focused on its long-term objectives.
May 15: Happay streamlines operations
Happay, an Indian corporate expense management platform owned by CRED, slashed nearly 35 percent of its workforce as part of a restructuring exercise.
Despite CRED’s substantial revenue growth, the company’s considerable marketing and acquisition expenses led to a reported loss, prompting this strategic shift.
May 20: Amazon gets leaner
Amazon commenced layoffs in its cloud services division, a move expected to affect 9,000 employees worldwide, including those based in Singapore.
Despite Amazon Web Services being the company’s most profitable division, slowing growth and customer spending have forced Amazon to reassess its resource allocation.
May 31: Nansen adapts to challenging market conditions
Singapore-based blockchain platform Nansen recently announced a significant workforce reduction, affecting 30 percent of its employees.
This downsizing is part of a broader trend in the cryptocurrency industry, where many companies have been forced to make similar cuts due to challenging market conditions.
Nansen experienced rapid growth since its establishment in 2019 and has gained traction in the market. However, the company scaled up its team during expansion without proper alignment with its core strategy. As a result, with unfavourable market conditions, Nansen’s cost base became unsustainable.
In response, the company made the tough decision to reduce its workforce and refocus its efforts on a more focused and sustainable business approach.
June 21: Grab shakes things up
Singapore’s ride-hailing giant Grab announced layoffs of over 1,000 employees, 11 percent of its workforce. This marked its first significant round of layoffs since 2020.
In light of slowing user growth and an ongoing net loss, Grab’s CEO Anthony Tan portrayed these layoffs as necessary adaptations to the rapidly changing technology and economic environments.
Despite avoiding layoffs in the previous year, even as competitors made cuts, this move indicates a shift in Grab’s strategy toward profitability.
July 12: Circle restructures and focuses on Web3 growth
Navigating the storm
The layoffs in Asia’s fintech industry reflect the challenges companies face operating in a rapidly evolving market.
Economic uncertainties, market downturns, the crypto winter, and the need for cost control have forced many fintech players to reevaluate their operations and make difficult decisions.
As the industry evolves, adaptability, agility, and a focus on sustainable growth will be crucial for fintech companies to weather the storms and emerge stronger on the other side.