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Exploring Fintech Growth in Thailand: Innovations and Impact

2023.12.29

Key Takeaways:

  • Thailand’s fintech landscape saw rapid growth with a 94% cashless payment adoption in 2021, fueled by COVID-19 and collaborative efforts from both public and private sectors.
  • The introduction of PromptPay revolutionized Thailand’s payment system, offering zero-cost transactions and challenging traditional banking models.
  • Thailand is set to issue 30 virtual banking licenses by mid-2024, promoting financial innovation and competition, but posing challenges for smaller entities due to high capital requirements.

Fintech Development in Thailand

According to the latest report by Wing Vasiksiri (WV) and Ravenry, Thailand has experienced a flourishing financial technology industry driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the country’s cashless payment adoption rate had achieved 94%, showcasing significant progress in its fintech landscape. This transformation has been primarily propelled by both public and private sectors, aiming to establish a robust cashless ecosystem while discouraging the use of physical currency. As managing physical cash can be cumbersome and result in substantial financial burdens, and handling cash incurs significant costs,  more people in Thailand are opting for cashless payment methods to meet their daily needs. Cashless payments are most commonly used in Thailand for bill payments, convenience store transactions, and supermarket shopping.

 

Furthermore, Thailand’s fintech industry sees active participation from local, regional, and global players vying for market share, each with different focuses. Local and regional participants lead the industry by leveraging their strategic partnerships and user bases. On the other hand, global players have carved out niche markets, particularly in providing payment gateway services. For instance, TrueMoney, initially affiliated with Thailand’s largest telecommunications company, developed a robust application targeting the country’s rapidly growing smartphone adoption rate. In contrast, Rabbit LINE Pay succeeded by tapping into the extensive user base of the LINE messaging app; by integrating with the widely used Rabbit transportation card in Bangkok, Rabbit LINE Pay has captured a significant market share.

 

With the introduction of PromptPay, Thailand’s payment landscape underwent a significant transformation. This system enables individuals to make transfers through digital channels using their national identification card, mobile phone number, or bank account details. Since its launch in February 2018, PromptPay has provided zero-cost transactions for amounts below 5,000 Thai Baht ($151), while banks typically charge 25 Thai Baht ($0.75) for such transactions. The popularity of the free PromptPay option has led to a slowdown in banks’ growth and their profit decline. This shift prompted banks to reassess their strategies and adapt to the evolving financial landscape. To stay competitive, banks are embracing digital transformation by offering comprehensive banking-as-a-service solutions, including convenient mobile banking applications for customers.

 

Finally, Thailand is set to approve 30 virtual banking licenses by mid-2024 as part of an initiative led by Thai banks to open the banking industry to new entrants, fostering growth and innovation. To obtain a license, entities must meet two key requirements: having a registered capital of 5 billion Thai Baht ($151 million) on the effective date and operating as a 100% digital bank with no branded ATMs or cash deposit machines. The joint application submitted by industry giants Alipay and TrueMoney is an interesting development. However, the stringent 5 billion Thai Baht capital requirement may pose a potential barrier for small startups seeking licenses. While the licensing process is ongoing, the approved licensees are anticipated to be announced in mid-2024.

 

Profile of Fintech Usage Among Thai Consumers

  • Digital Banking Services

As consumer lifestyles evolve and technology advances, virtual banking services continue to grow rapidly, becoming the new norm for banks and financial institutions. Each bank and financial institution must devise a clear roadmap to offer customers digital banking services, which is crucial to stay relevant and competitive in the digital era. According to the 2019 Global Digital Report, Thai residents predominantly use mobile payments through the banking sector, followed by cryptocurrency and mobile commerce. The report indicates that Thailand leads globally in the prevalence of online banking services, with 74% of the population utilizing them, followed by Sweden (71%) and Turkey (68%), with a global average of approximately 41%. To meet consumer expectations, traditional banks such as Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand are expanding their online channels. The reduction of physical branches by banking institutions can significantly lower costs and provide more attractive interest rates for savings deposits. Numerous fintech companies in Thailand are also developing various financial services, including digital payment platforms. Consumers using purely digital banks enables them to avoid hidden fees associated with low account balances, direct deposits, or payments through different channels.

 

  • Cryptocurrency

Thailand has emerged as a regional leader in cryptocurrency and other fintech sectors. At least 10% of internet users in Thailand have engaged in some form of cryptocurrency investment, making the country the world’s second-largest market for cryptocurrency ownership, surpassed only by South Africa. The Thai government supports the ownership of cryptocurrency based on local coins and currencies. The cryptocurrency industry in Thailand is regulated by the Royal Decree on Digital Asset Businesses B.E. 2561, which categorizes digital asset businesses into three types: digital asset exchanges, brokers, and dealers. To date, Thailand has issued licenses to 13 cryptocurrency businesses, including exchanges, brokers, and dealers, allowing them to operate legally in the country.

 

The Royal Decree distinguishes cryptocurrency from digital tokens. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Thailand states that the purpose of creating cryptocurrency is “as a medium of exchange for acquiring goods, services, or other rights.” Digital tokens, on the other hand, are defined as “used to prove the right according to the agreement between the issuer and the holder, for someone to participate in any project or investment in a specific enterprise, or to obtain specific goods, services, or other rights.”

 

Furthermore, Thailand regulates Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) through licensed ICO portals, defined as “providers of an electronic system facilitating the issuance of new digital tokens.” Cryptocurrency exchanges, brokers, dealers, and ICO portals are considered financial institutions under the Thailand Anti-Money Laundering Act. According to the legislation, “any person intending to operate a digital asset business must be recommended by the SEC and approved by the Minister of Finance.” 

 

  • Algorithmic Stock Trading

With the rapid advancements in technology, there has been a significant impact on the financial markets in Thailand. To enhance market efficiency and liquidity, the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) allows domestic stockbrokers to develop and offer clients algorithmic and automated stock trading services. Algorithmic trading involves using computer programs to execute trades based on predefined instructions (algorithms). In theory, this trading method can generate profits at speed and frequency unmatched by human traders. The predefined instructions are based on time, price, quantity, or mathematical model.

 

Algorithmic trading not only brings more profit opportunities to traders but is also a more liquid and systematic trading tool due to excluding human emotions from trading activities. While algorithmic trading is a novel fintech approach, Thai investors, even if willing to embrace this innovative stock trading strategy, still express concerns about its reliability and profitability. Platforms offering such services should focus on building investors’ trust in algorithmic trading, convincing them that it is a reliable and lucrative trading strategy.

 

  • Farmer Loans

In 2022, Thailand’s GDP experienced a growth of 0.8%, primarily driven by the agricultural sector. However, this industry faces fundamental issues such as debt and poverty, forcing Thai farmers to encourage their descendants to seek better employment opportunities to increase income. To address these challenges, providing equipment loans for farmers has become a promising solution, given the widespread financial needs of farmers and their commendable repayment records; despite agriculture finance still faces obstacles in Thailand.

Green financing encounters challenges such as the uncertainty of project feasibility, and a lack of successful cases, hindering progress. Indonesian startups like Amartha and TaniFund are addressing these issues by implementing transparent Know Your Customer (KYC) processes for investors, obtaining local government approvals, and enhancing the security of lenders through the participation of multiple peer-funding sources.

 

 

Key FinTech Players in Thailand

  • Ascend Money

Ascend Money, established in 2013, is a Thai financial technology company affiliated with Ascend Group, a digital technology conglomerate offering digital finance, e-commerce, data, and cloud services. The company operates TrueMoney, a FinTech platform and super app providing products and services, including the TrueMoney wallet, Mastercard micro cards, TrueMoney cash cards, Kiosk, Express, payment gateways, and remittance.

 

TrueMoney has boasted 27 million users through its application launch, with an average monthly spending of 3,000-4,000 Thai Baht ($82-110). Regarding financial services, the platform has 2.5 million account holders utilizing its savings, investment, and loan services. TrueMoney’s payment services currently cover 7 million users in Thailand and support payments in 40 other countries, such as Singapore, Japan, Korea, and China. In 2023, the company expanded its e-wallet product to Malaysia, marking its sixth Southeast Asian market. TruMoney has put the eyes on Malaysia’s huge potential market, and the company also collaborates with Lotus’s Stores Malaysia,  one of Malaysia’s largest hypermarket.

 

Ascend Money’s Co-President, Monsinee Nakapanant, informed the Bangkok Post in May 2023 that TrueMoney aims to have 50% of Thailand’s population actively using its services daily by 2025, with a goal to achieve profitability this year. She mentioned that the company also plans to apply for a virtual banking license in Thailand and will seek new financing through an initial public offering (IPO) or other options.

 

  • Opn

Opn, founded in 2013, focuses on online payment solutions and digital transformation. The company’s products include the all-in-one online payment platform Opn Payments, custom-tailored embedded financial solutions based on customer needs, Opn Tag for creating contactless digital touchpoints, and a digital wallet utilizing blockchain technology. Additionally, the company offers consulting services through its Opn Pro brand. Opn operated in Thailand as Omise in 2015 and later expanded its geographical presence to Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The company states that its FinTech solutions are utilized by over 22,000 global enterprises and small to medium-sized businesses. Opn’s service platform enables customers to launch, manage, and expand their branded card programs easily, generating new sources of revenue. Its integration with Atome allows customers to offer Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payment options. In a previous funding round in May 2022, Opn secured $120 million in Series C+ funding, bringing its total funding to over $222 million. At that time, the company stated that it would use the proceeds to accelerate the development of its core payment solutions and expansion into new areas.

 

  • Roojai

Roojai, established in 2016, is an insurtech startup dedicated to building online insurance products that are simple, user-friendly, reasonably priced, and offer high-quality services. The company provides various insurance products, including vehicles, critical illnesses, accidents, travel, etc. Roojai is a licensed insurance broker and has established exclusive partnerships with leading insurance companies in Thailand and Southeast Asia, including AXA Thailand, Krungthai Panich Insurance, and FWD Thailand. In early 2022, the company expanded into Indonesia and conducted a series of acquisitions in 2023 to consolidate its position in the local market and enter new markets. These transactions include acquiring the local business of Fubon Insurance from Bolttech and acquiring DirectAsia, a Singapore-based insurance company primarily engaged in auto insurance.

 

Through these acquisitions, Roojai has become a comprehensive digital insurance company with a license to underwrite general insurance products in Thailand. The company has also expanded its market share, insuring over 400,000 vehicles across three countries and providing protection for accidents and health products to 300,000 individuals. Roojai states that it will use this funding to accelerate its growth in Thailand, drive its expansion in Southeast Asia, and explore acquisition opportunities.

 

  • Rabbit Care

Rabbit Care, founded in 2013 as Rabbit Finance, is a leading player in the insurance and financial product market. The company provides an online comparison platform that enables customers to easily compare and purchase insurance and financial products, leveraging technology to streamline insurance and financial product brokering. The platform covers six primary business segments: motor insurance, health insurance, life insurance, other insurance, corporate insurance, and financial products, with business partnerships exceeding 70 companies. Rabbit Care is a subsidiary of Rabbit Group under VGI and boasts a customer base of over 4 million. The company reported generating THB 3 billion ($87.4 million) in insurance premiums and a 144% growth in commissions from financial products in 2022.

 

Recently, Rabbit Care established and launched Rabbit Care Lending, a new brand focusing on BNPL financing programs. In September, the company acquired the brokerage business of EasyCompare, gaining 30,000 customers through this acquisition. Rabbit Care anticipates achieving a 50% revenue growth target in 2023 and aims to consolidate its position in the industry. The company expects insurance premiums for all products to exceed THB 4.5 billion ($123.5 million) in the current fiscal year.

 

  • Finnomena

Finnomena, established in 2015, is a digital wealth management platform developer targeting investors and financial advisors. It provides personalized investment advice based on individual risk profiles and financial goals. The platform utilizes proprietary machine learning (ML) technology and a hybrid robo-advisory model to generate returns higher than the market, offering users an exceptional technical support experience. Finnomena also provides educational content and tools to empower users to make informed investment decisions. The company claims it has witnessed robust growth in the past year, serving over 120,000 clients, constituting over 5% of mutual fund investors in Thailand. As of March 2023, Finnomena’s assets under management (AUM) reached $1 billion. In July 2023, the company secured $5.5 million in a B+ funding round to further develop its investment management platform and expand its product range to include new asset classes such as crowdfunding and tokenized investments.

Conclusion

For Thailand, the development of financial technology can effectively improve overall economic productivity and banks’ ability to withstand risks, and promote inclusive finance. Platforms such as P2P can speed up loan approval, enable small businesses with capital turnover difficulties to obtain funds successfully, and enhance overall social productivity; in addition, the development of financial technology will help banks penetrate technology to improve risk control capabilities, thereby achieving supervision standards and resisting external shocks. Also, Thailand is currently working hard to make achievements in regulations, payment systems and blockchain to make the fintech system more robust.

 


 

More content from CoinRank:

 

Indonesia’s Fintech Analysis: How Startups are Shaping the Future of Finance

Vietnam’s Fintech Boom: A Comprehensive Analysis of Market Growth and Trends

Understanding the Key Drivers in the Current Fintech Sector

 

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