Navigating a prosperous path beyond the COVID pandemic is a key goal of countries across the world. Yet, if a successful economic plan is to be implemented, financial inclusion needs to play a central role in the strategy. While a great deal of progress has been made towards including underbanked people in the mainstream financial system, statistics clearly show much more work needs to be done in this area, especially in Asia.
According to a report from The ASEAN Post, almost three out of four (73%) of those living in Southeast Asia are unbanked. Left behind by traditional financial institutions, hundreds of millions of people in Asia alone are excluded from doing everything from sending money abroad to getting credit and accessing insurance.
Financial inclusion in Asia
The use of embedded finance can be a powerful tool to boost financial inclusion by enabling non-financial companies and platforms to offer financial services to their customers. This seamless user experience can help overcome challenges that keep people away from financial services, including a lack of credit history, difficultly in accessing conventional banking products and low levels of trust in banks.
It’s not just individuals who can benefit from embedded finance solutions with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) being able to gain support for everyday business issues, such as cash flow and and obtaining loans.
A report from the Asian Development Bank found that SMEs are vital to Southeast Asian economies, with these companies employing 69% of the national labour force from 2010 to 2019 and making up 97% of all enterprises. Ensuring these firms are properly supported is easier to achieve with the benefits offered by embedded finance.
Dozens of innovative firms in the embedded finance space in Asia have been created in recent years, with this industry becoming increasingly competitive as international firms expand into the region. Last year, Singapore-based insurance provider Sompo Holdings invested in embedded insurance firm Cover Genius to embed its own insurance products and expand its distribution channels.
Asia-Pacific’s embedded finance industry is forecast to grow at almost 25% each year until at least 2029, according to ResearchandMarkets, thanks to a powerful combination of a young, digital population and innovative technologies.
Partnerships are a key way for international companies to quickly gain a presence in Asia, although some local embedded finance start-ups are going it alone without backing from global firms.
Homegrown buy now, pay later (BNPL) firms, such as Singapore-based BNPL provider Atome and Indonesia startup Fairbanc, are supporting the roll-out of easy-to-use embedded financial solutions that reach the untapped unbanked customer segment.
Embedded finance WealthTech provider additiv are actively working to deepen its presence in the APAC region with embedded payments firm Adyen also launching local acquisition capabilities in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore last May.
Embedded financial services are already helping underserved populations across Asia, with the growing adoption of these solutions setting the scene for a strong post-pandemic recovery.
Written by Finbarr Toesland, Editorial Contributor, VC Innovations