The Evolution of the Payments Landscape in South East Asia

The whole payments sector is experiencing an unprecedented rate of change, bringing considerable flux and undermining traditional models. The Asian region is not immune to these disruptive changes, over the past few months I’ve observed many interesting developments within the region.

QR Code Payments


Notably, in Thailand there is a concerted push from players like MasterCard, VISA and UnionPay in QR standardisation in support of the Bank of Thailands aspirations towards a cashless society. The standardisation is intended to be adopted across the payments value chain from the banks all the way to the merchants. While this is an initiative that is praised by many industry observers, there are also those who lie within the doubtful camp.

The skepticism arrives on the back of Singapore’s recent lackluster pilot experiment launched in November enabling QR payments in a space that is quintessentially Singaporean; hawker stalls. Local news report within Singapore has indicated that there’s a lack of awareness from the average joe on the street.

Contrasting starkly with Singapore’s pilot experiment, QR payments within China is near ubiquitous. One could speculate that this is largely due to the fact that China leap-frogged plastic or that there’s no equivalent of applications like WeChat which was allowed to flourish under China’s controlled economic environment.


NFC Payments


Source: Vodafone Medien

While NFC payments is a far cry from a new technology, conversations about a cashless society powered by NFC has been ongoing for a while especially within the South East Asian region. For the longest time, despite the hype that surrounds NFC, it has seen very little success within the South East Asian in the past.

However recent developments have revived hopes for NFC-enabled payment systems. Bank Negara Malaysia recently mandated the change of debit cards and credit cards to be NFC enabled. Gradually, there is a visible increase in the number of merchants with NFC terminals. This trend is further driven by the emergence of mobile wallets within Asia.


Mobile Wallet


Source: Samsung

The proliferation of contactless payment systems as mentioned above has certainly done much to support the growth of mobile wallets and vice versa. It is observed that most of the initiatives in the region within the mobile wallet space are carried out by telcos, with like of Samsung throwing its hat in the ring with regional partnerships with incumbent banks like Maybank, CIMB, DBS, Standard Chartered Bank, UOB.

Whereas telco operators like G-Cash, Telkomsel are one of the dominant players within the mobile wallets space within countries like Philippines and Indonesia respectively. The banks too are not sitting idly by in recent months we’ve observed the launch of DBS Paylah, Maybank Pay, CIMB Pay, Vardhana Wallet (DFCC, Sri Lanka) and many others.

The question now remains with all these developments taken into consideration what does the future hold for the payments landscape in Asian countries? To draw inspiration on developments on other countries I ran through the Payment Systems & Supplier Report by IBS.

I would have attempted to share some of the findings here but I don’t think I’ll be able to do it any justice. So I’ve reached out to my friend Abhijit in IBS to request for discounted rates for the report and he has graciously agreed to provide 10% of discount to customers and readers of BankTech Asia.

Please visit the link below if you’re interested:


About the Author

Vincent Fong is the General Manager of Knowledge Group and a self-proclaimed pundit of banking technology and fintech

Maybank Launches the Region’s First Collaborative Fintech Sandbox

24 May 2017 – In a briefing conducted at The Co. Bangsar by Suthesh, VP Group Technology Strategy, Maybank it was announced that Maybank is currently looking for developers and fintech companies to participate in their regional collaborative sandbox dubbed the “Maybank Sandbox”.Maybank Sandbox

According to Suthesh, the Sandbox is still in its beta form and his team will endeavor to improve the platform progressively if enough interest is shown from the community.


The key highlights of the Sandbox during the briefing are as follows:

  1. The sandbox is intended to be a platform for the community to develop and collaborate on their fintech ideas.
  2. The sandbox provides 3 months worth of masked behavioral data, Open APIs, Developer Toolkits.
  3. You can submit ideas on this platform, if the community finds the idea to be good, they can approach you to collaborate on developing that idea further.
  4. This platform is targetted at Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia & Philippines.
  5. The sandbox enables cross-border collaboration, as an example, Suthesh mentioned that a developer may connect with a UX/UI developer from Thailand to work on an idea together.
  6. You do not need prior approval enter the sandbox, Maybank intends to take a more laissez-faire approach rather than a big brother approach
  7. Maybank will not own the intellectual property to your code and idea developed from the platform, they will only hold the intellectual property for the platform.

To be a part of the platform you may visit the following link

This is definitely a great step forward for the fintech scene in Malaysia, we hope that with Maybank taking the charge towards Open Banking others banks in Malaysia will follow suit.


About the Author

Vincent Fong is the General Manager of Knowledge Group and a self-proclaimed pundit of banking technology and fintech

Malaysia’s Fintech Landscape: Key Developments & Opportunities in 2017

We’re almost halfway through 2017 and what an exciting year it has been for Fintech in Malaysia, there’s been rapid developments in this space over the course of these past 6 months. We thought it’d be appropriate to highlight some of the key developments in Malaysia during this exciting period of time. If you’d like to view the key happenings in 2016, feel free to check out our previous article 


Fintech Malaysia -Regulatory/ Governmental Support



Fintecn Malaysia - BNM

Recently, Bank Negara Malaysia launched a website where fintech firms can view all the relevant regulations, gain more understanding on the sandbox and also submit their fintech ideas as well.

On top of social media channels Bank Negara has also been seen actively participating in University Road shows, informal panel discussions and quarterly regulatory bootcamp to help fintech firms better understand the regulatory landscape in Malaysia.

En Aznan, the Chairman of the Fintech Enablement Group of Bank Negara Malaysia will also be speaking at the 9th BankTech Asia Conference which will be happening from the 5th – 6th July 2017.

Fintech Malaysia - Securities Commission of Malaysia

In 2016 Securities Commission Malaysia in a landmark move approved a series of  Equity Crowd Funding platform, the companies approved were FundedByMe (Alix Global), Ata Plus, Crowdonomic, Eureeca, pitchIN and Crowdplus. Alongside with that Securities Commission Malaysia also approved 6 Peer to Peer Financing Operators namely B2B FinPAL, Kapital, FundedByMe Malaysia, ManagePay Services, Modalku Ventures and Peoplender, which makes it the first in ASEAN countries to do so, putting it ahead of its more popular neighbour, Singapore.

In keeping with it’s progressive regulatory approach, in May 2017 Securities Commission Malaysia introduced the Digital Investment Management framework, setting out licensing and conduct requirements for the offering of automated discretionary portfolio management services to investors. Better known as Robo Advisory, this framework will enable access to a suite of wealth management product beyond the affluent and mass affluent market.

Fintech Malaysia- MDEC

MDEC is the lead agency in driving the digital economy in Malaysia. As a government linked entity, its role is to build a vibrant digital economy and ensure that Malaysia plays a leading part in the global digital revolution. Fintech is amongst its identified core focus.

In March 2017, MDEC announced that they will be launching the FinTech Space, though details about the FinTech Space is still not widely available, industry sources say that its intention is to be an ecosystem and a launchpad for the fintech community. It is also reported that MDEC facilitated a $20 million investment from Life.Sreda with the aim of $50 million by the end of the year.

On a separate occasion, MDEC also launched the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP) ,although not specifically geared at fintech, the start-up founders in the fintech space can no doubt benefit from this program. Under MTEP, entrepreneurs are entitled to the following benefits

  • Corporate tax exemptions for the tech startups
  • 1 to 5 years passes under the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneurs Programme for individuals who want to set up or expand their businesses into Malaysia
  • Access to funding
  • Coaching and mentorship
  • Low cost of doing business
  • High-speed broadband
  • Stable business-friendly environment
  • Freedom of ownership for foreign companies for investors


Fintech Malaysia- Which Banks Are Actively Working with Fintech?

We ran a survey across 70 financial institutions in ASEAN, with a big sample size coming from Malaysia and below are our findings:

Fintech Malaysia - Bank Survey

Based on the survey the numbers certainly looks encouraging, let’s take a deep dive into what the respective banks have been doing in 2017. (For a run down in 2016, where we’ve covered which banks in Malaysia that are working with fintech partners namely, Maybank, RHB , CIMB and Ambank please read our previous article.

Hong Leong Bank - Fintech Malaysia

2017 featured a new contender throwing its hat into the ring, Hong Leong Bank officially kickstarted its HLB Launchpad in March 2017 and just recently closed for application. Under this programme Hong Leong Bank will select 5 startups based on the following core areas:

  • Simplifying Banking Today
  • Digitising Customer Journeys & Experience
  • Re-Imagining Banking for tomorrow

The 5 start ups will then undergo a 3 months mentorship programme by the banks senior management and will also be entitled to a RM 25,000 allowance per startup. If the startup is able to meet Cradle’s criteria they may be considered for an equity investment up to RM 1,000,000.


Fintech Malaysia - MAYBANK

Maybank continued with its 3rd edition of Maybank Fintech, in comparison to last year’s programme where it had specific solution areas this year’s Maybank Fintech seems to be broader in focus. The key criteria in 2017 is to look at “Go-to-market” partnership where both parties can leverage on each other to tap into an opportunity. It is interesting to note that this year they’ve also opened it up to Non-Fintech technology companies.

In addition to the Maybank Fintech programme they have also launched Maybank Sandbox, which they claim is the first regional collaborative sandbox. In this sandbox Maybank will provide, dummy banking data provisioned in a secure sandbox for analytics and simulation, real banking APIs and development tools to enable 3rd party collaboration.

Notable fintech partnerships forged by Maybank outside of these initiatives include Samsung Pay in late 2016 and the MOU between Maybank and Alipay signed in March to enable Alipay’s mobile wallet in Malaysia.


Fintech Malaysia - CIMB Bank

When news broke that CIMB Bank will be hiring Olivier Crespin to head its newly set-up standalone unit dubbed CIMB Fintech, it sent a shockwave amongst the fintech community, with many caught by surprised. Olivier was best known for for launching DigiBank, DBS’s mobile only bank in regions like India and Indonesia. According to the group, the CIMB Fintech is intended to be agile and the vision is for it to execute ideas that will redefine CIMB’s products and services. Olivier is scheduled to join CIMB in June, pending regulatory approval from Bank Negara Malaysia, I suspect we won’t hear much until then, but the next few months would certainly be interesting to observe to see if CIMB will shake things up in the market.

Similar with Maybank, CIMB has also forged partnership with SamsungPay and Alipay for the same purpose.


Fintech Malaysia - PUBLIC-BANK

2017 is the year where we see even the historically more conservative players like Public Bank entering the fray of fintech. In March, Public Bank entered into partnership with iSentric to jointly develop and introduce a mobile payment solution to the Malaysian market. There are also partnership discussions ongoing with other fintech players within the space that’s not publicly announced. I suspect in late 2017 and early 2018 we’ll definitely see more announcements by Public Bank.


Fintech Malaysia - Ambank

In early 2017, Ambank appointed Raja Teh Maimunah as the CEO of AmInvestment Bank, as mentioned in the earlier article, Raja Teh Maimunah has been knowned to be actively presenting keynotes within the fintech circuit and making public statements in regards to the importance of embracing fintech.  Though at the time of writing, there’s been no significant activity from Ambank with regards to fintech.


Fintech Malaysia: What Are The Opportunities?


FinMatch is a dedicated fintech session happening during the 9th BankTech Asia Conference. This session is designed to connect fintech start-ups with banks, VCs and regulators through a series of fireside chats. It’ll be an intimate closed-door session where leading banks and VCs will share what they’re looking for and regulators will share their views.

To register for this session click here Tickets are going for 100 USD per participant.




Powered by Matchi, we’re launching the Fin5ive challenge and we’ll be scanning the globe for the top 5 fintech innovations in the market. Winners of this challenge will be given time to demo to an audience of 200 bankers at our 9th BankTech Asia Conference and will be given space to showcase their innovation at our exhibition for free. This will be a good opportunity to connect with some of the banks mentioned above and more.

Update: (The competition is now closed for application join us in 2018!)


About the Author

Vincent Fong is the General Manager of Knowledge Group and a self-proclaimed pundit of banking technology and fintech

iPhone 7: Implications on Financial Services

t’s no secret that since the first iPhone was launched in 2007 it has inadvertently transformed the way we go about our banking activities. Prior to the proliferation of apps, mobile banking was almost unheard of, these days if you are any bank of note you are likely to have a mobile banking app.

While many would argue that iPhone is no longer in the forefront of innovation, with over 1 billion units sold as of July 2016 it is a large user base to ignore completely. One of the main contentions of many people in this new iteration of iPhone is the removal of the audio jack and the introduction of Airpods.



While it may serve as a mere nuisance for it ordinary users, the implications for mPOS solution providers a far wider reaching. Ever since Square pushed this innovation to the market we’ve observed many local versions of Square in various countries enabling small to medium size merchants to accept credit cards and creating a society that’s more cashless.

According to research by Credence Research the mPOS market is predicted to reach 43.32 billion by 2022, with most mPOS players relying on the audio jack to read the cards, one wonders if Apple’s move to remove the jack from its iPhone will put a dent on the numbers.

While some players are still reeling in the news, players like CardFlight is quick to respond by issuing a public statement that their system will be compatible with iPhone through bluetooth.

Whereas Square has not issued any statements adapting bluetooth and instead will be relying on the adapters.


“Headphone jack adapters will work with the Square Reader,” says Leslie Jackson, a spokesperson with Square.

“We anticipate many types of headphone jack adapters will become available and will work to create the best solution for our sellers.”


While the adapter seems like a viable option, will it work awkwardly? The Apple adapter is not designed to create an anchoring to the force needed to be exerted to read a payment card.

Will the other players follow suit with bluetooth or will they rely on the adapters? Perhaps they will ignore the user base altogether?

At this juncture its really difficult to tell, with Apple’s steadily declining market share of 11.8% as of Q2 of 2016 and Android market share being more than 80% would it really be worth it for the players to re-engineer their systems to fit the new iPhone 7? This is especially since the iPhone 7 is yet be officially sold and there is no clarity on whether their will be many users switching from their earlier iPhones to iPhone 7.

However, on the flipside as an mPOS player if you do not make your system ubiquitous do you risk having the banks and merchants reconsider their relationship with you? Either way, the next few months will be an interesting one to observe.

Side note: There’s also this image circulating social media – what do you guys think, is there any meat to these claims? Let me know in the comments below



About the Author

Vincent Fong is the General Manager of Knowledge Group and a self-proclaimed pundit of banking technology and fintech