While tech companies in Silicon Valley are focusing on sophisticated technology like AI-powered robo-traders for the stock market or mobile apps to make wealth management easier, startups in Southeast Asia are focused on something far more fundamental.
Fintech in Southeast Asia may one day soon mirror that of the West. But before that can even start to happen, local tech founders and funders need to get the region’s gargantuan unbanked population off the bench and into the game. The name of that game is basic financial inclusion. Let’s take a look from 30,000 feet.
Back in 2016, global auditing giant KPMG claimed that only 27 per cent of people in Southeast Asia had a bank account. This meant there was an absolutely mammoth gap when it came to financial inclusion, with about 438 million unbanked humans in the region. When the data came out, in places like Cambodia the number was crazy low (around five per cent).
In 2019, observable progress has been made. Some experts claim that the region’s banked population now sits at 47 per cent — likely as a result of new tech and innovations coupled with government support. But still, that means we’re not even halfway there yet.