Finance & Technology In ASEAN Countries, Quid Novi? – Part 1by Jean-Armand Figeac June 6, 2017
Currently based in Switzerland at the Institute of Financial Services of Zug, I write this article in two sections in order to present the personal vision that I was able to develop from local and foreign FinTech companies. Strongly motivated, I recently decided to blend personal interests and professional commitment outside the regular comfort zone and moved to the Asian continent.
The objective of this first part is to give a brief overview of the context in which these financial disrupters, both Swiss and French, have evolved in recent years. This process will make it easier for readers to realize, on the one hand, their strong growth and the current challenges faced by Western FinTech, but also, and above all, to highlight the striking inherent disparity in their Asian counterparts and more particularly in the ASEAN area. This will then represent the second part of the article.
Apart from the fact that innovation, product&service development and financing remain a key driver of success for any start-up, I found it necessary to support and decipher the socio-economic context that intensified their expansion. This argument is nevertheless twofold: while the ecosystem of these new enterprises reveals a dynamic perspective, the structural framework is not yet fully established. But what makes their progress even more phenomenal and exhilarating is the financial and institutional viability, a major development challenge defined by the former UN Secretary General: financial inclusion.
But what is FinTech all about?
Whether you are in Zurich, London, Paris, Los Angeles or Singapore, they do indeed exist…
and are growing rapidly.
At a quick glance, a general classification would reveal:
- Online Payment / Digital
- Crypto currency
- Investments and Capital Markets
- Banking & Corporate Finance
- Big Data & Analytics
- Financial Platform
- Crowdfunding, Crowdequity, Peer to Peer Loan
- Personal Finance
A generic definition of this term would be:
“The FinTech term is the contraction of” financial “and” technology “; (…) a very broad term that refers to all technologies related to financial services, including companies ranging from small start-ups to larger firms. ”
This fast-developing branch is defined by the University of Wharton as “An industry made up of companies that use technology to make the financial system more efficient”.
The French Minister of the Economy and Finance defines it as “A major challenge for the development of innovative financial services for all; consumers have a vested interest in seeing new actors jostling established players in the financial sector.”
Have they always been part of our everyday environment?
From a very personal point of view, I strongly believe in their evolution taking into account certain macro factors such as:
– The unprecedented loss of confidence between banks and their customers in 2008
– The various technological tools made available
– The exponential speed of computer programs acquisition at competitive prices
– The entry into a new digital era
All of this perpetuated by the “Millenial” and the “Gen Z”.
Indeed, a specific catalyst to FinTech is the mistrust of conventional financial institutions. The financial crisis of 2007-2009, gave rise to the economic recession, allowed young go-getters across the globe to take advantage of the situation and thus increase their reputation. The banks ancient and complex security practices combined with obscure impenetrable monetary institutions processes are now challenged by young innovative start-ups offering the public and investors more accessible and personalized services at much more transparent levels and for very low costs.
What about in France and Switzerland?
In France, crowdfunding/crowdequity started to emerge with companies such as Isodev, KissKissBankBank and My Major Company, which later on captured larger market shares with players such as Prêt d’Union increasing its capital by 30M Euros but also Finnexcap having raised around 20 Mio Euros a while ago; those just being a small example of many others.
The French financial ecosystem, gathered to discuss this topic at the beginning of 2017, found itself at the forefront of the “Bourse de Paris” to discuss future guidelines and it seems that regulation is becoming paramount.
Very often in search of perfection reflecting certain German traits, the Swiss FinTech has progressed at its own pace with some pioneers like Run My Accounts, Sayula or even Investiere. Classified as one of the world’s major financial centres, many research institutes and consulting firms agree that the Swiss Confederation still has a long way to go. The latter, benefiting from a stable political and economic context, but also from many innovative poles, both French-speaking and German one, Switzerland must endeavour to attract a greater number of investors. Key opportunities seem to gravitate around Asset Management, Security / Digital Identity, but also high-tech sectors such as CryptoCurrency and Blockchain.
Niche market identification is therefore certain to be extremely economically profitable, even if, in the long term, few of them will survive. Some will go bankrupt, others will merge and a tiny number will attract the greed of key players in the financial sector. The latter, however, are not left behind neither as they did not wait for the advices of those disrupters.
Indeed, a consortium of the biggest banks (+70) such as JP Morgan, UBS, Goldman Sachs, CITI and many others were created under the name “R3” eager to implement Blockchain technology within their own private services (undergoing several changes). Nevertheless, these banking behemoths prefer to join this unrestrained race and thus establishing strategic partnerships with some of them or even take them under their wing.