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Why Businesses Should Make Expansion in Asia a Priority: Exploring the Rapid Growth of Fintech

In recent years, Asia has emerged as a flourishing fintech hub with the potential to rival the UK and the US. The region’s rapid economic growth, large population, and increasing digital adoption have laid a strong foundation for its fintech ecosystem. Countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and China have been at the forefront of this transformation, attracting significant investments and fostering innovation.

As a vivid example of this, earlier in 2023, Singapore was named the top fintech hub in the region and the fourth one globally, after New York, San Francisco, and London.

Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why Asia holds such great promise in the fintech industry, as well as why it may be a good idea to consider establishing a startup in this region.

What makes Asia so attractive for fintech entrepreneurs and investors?

The way I see it, the potential of any region to attract new businesses is determined by the regulatory landscape, the market size, and the pain points it is facing.

From a regulatory point of view, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea have established themselves as leaders in the Asia-Pacific region, both in terms of how developed their financial regulation is and in how streamlined the processes of obtaining relevant licenses and reporting are.

Governments in these countries have been proactive in creating favourable regulatory frameworks that support fintech development while providing a high level of consumer protection and promoting market stability. This provides a sense of certainty and security for investors and encourages foreign direct investment. According to EIU’s business environment ranking for Q2 2023, Asia stands among the top three regions worldwide for doing business.

Secondly, the market size. Based on the data from the Asian Development Bank, there are around 70 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Southeast Asia, which account for 97 per cent of all businesses in the region. This is an astounding figure, and it demonstrates how vital a role SMEs play in job creation, innovation, and overall economic development of this market.

Also Read: Despite decline, global fintech funding remains fairly stable: McKinsey report

With this in mind, I believe that it is crucial for such businesses to improve access to financial instruments and payment options. It can help them expand operations, invest in new technologies, seize growth opportunities, and reach a wider customer base on a global scale. Doing so, however, necessitates the establishment of new infrastructure for cross-border payments.

The fragmentation effect of the global financial system left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and various ongoing geopolitical tensions have resulted in a decrease in the efficiency of traditional banking systems. And while there are progressive payment systems present in Asia, they tend to be local in nature and focused on B2C clientele. They do not offer much in terms of interoperability or benefits when it comes to cross-border payments for businesses.

It is this very pain point that fintech companies are well-positioned to address by leveraging innovative technological solutions to streamline cross-border payments and deal with such issues as transaction costs, delays, and complexities arising from different currencies and banking systems.

Challenges to consider when entering the Asian market

When a company enters new territories, it must navigate the intricacies of different legal frameworks. This often entails obtaining multiple licenses to operate in various jurisdictions. Based on personal experience, I can say that this can be time-consuming and expensive. And in order for it not to turn into an endless parade of headaches, you need to follow a couple of rules.

Firstly, maintain focus and only seek out licensing for a product that you know is going to bring your business profits in the immediate future. Allocate your resources consistently and strategically to avoid unnecessary expenses, time-consuming processes, and potential regulatory hurdles.

Secondly, I recommend investing in compliance from day one, as it becomes an intrinsic part of developing your presence in a new region. Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding taxation, consumer safety standards, data privacy regulations, and more.

So, the compliance officer must work closely with the development team and ensure timely and transparent communication with regulators to avoid complications that could harm your business’s reputation and operations.

Finally, make sure to account for the language barrier and the localization of your product. Language barriers can hinder clear instructions and result in misunderstandings and misinterpretations, leading to errors in financial reporting, contracts, and negotiations. This is something that can impact relationships with customers and regulatory bodies alike.

Also Read: Fintech funding in Q3: Indonesia witnesses 94 per cent plunge while Vietnam sees 190 per cent surge

By recognising and addressing this issue upfront through translation services or hiring bilingual staff, businesses can enhance their ability to navigate cultural nuances and avoid potential problems in the new region.

The potential is there, but so are the challenges

The potential for fintech companies to establish themselves in Asia is significant. They can provide local businesses with accessible and affordable financial services that improve their efficiency and competitiveness in the global marketplace. Moreover, by driving innovation in payment systems, fintech firms can contribute to economic growth and financial inclusion within the region.

However, reaching out to new regions requires accounting for regulatory and localization adjustments. Businesses must plan for them ahead of time to improve their chances of building trust and establishing successful operations on new grounds.

As SMEs increasingly recognise the advantages of partnering with fintech companies, this sector is poised for substantial growth in Asia’s dynamic business environment.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing views from the community. Share your opinion by submitting an article, video, podcast, or infographic

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The post Fintech growth in Asia: Why businesses should prioritise expansion in the region appeared first on e27.

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