Greater Kuala Lumpur: A launchpad to Southeast Asia’s trillion-dollar fintech market

16 June 2022

Prior to the pandemic, the majority of Southeast Asian nations were largely cash-first economies. Since then, the increased use of e-commerce has helped drive strong growth across all digital financial services, led by digital lending loan books (up 48% in 2021 to US$39 billion), according to Google’s e-Conomy SEA 2021 report.

Source: Google, Temasek and Bain, e-Conomy SEA 2021; CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate.

With Asian giants India and China dominated by homegrown fintech champions such as Alipay and Paytm, the Southeast Asian market has become the new frontier for both legacy MNC financial players looking to spread their digital wings, as well as rising global fintechs expanding their service footprints.

Nonetheless, fintech investors need a strong Southeast Asian hub from which to operate, one with a large pool of tech talents, political stability, and strong support infrastructures such as high-speed broadband, business-friendly regulations, and digital backbones.

Malaysia’s financial payment regulators, including the Securities Commission and central bank Bank Negara Malaysia, have responded quickly to investor needs. They have implemented sandboxes for targeted services such as equity crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending and, most recently, issuing digital banking licences to multiple foreign consortiums.

In recent years, fintech multinationals have responded positively to these incentives and clarity in regulations by setting up regional fintech hubs in Greater Kuala Lumpur, either on their own or in partnership with local financial/ fintech partners.

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