Ascend Money announces 50,000-strong agent network across SEA
By Digital News Asia December 19, 2017
- Targeting both digital consumers and underbanked populations
- Aims to serve 100 million under-served SEA consumers by 2020
Southeast Asian fintech business Ascend Money has reached 50,000 agents – local franchises and networks such as convenience stores, pharmacies, street vendors, and cafes, that conduct financial services for customers – across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines.
Part of Thailand’s e-commerce company Ascend Group, Ascend Money is the leading fintech company in Thailand, operating under the TrueMoney brand for payments and Ascend Nano for lending. It has recently strengthened its foothold in the region through major partnerships, with the latest cooperation with Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) to extend financial services to rural communities.
“Having reached 50,000 agents in Southeast Asia we are expanding quickly to become the region’s leading financial services provider. Southeast Asia’s unbanked population faces several barriers to financial inclusion, such as the predominant use of cash, lack of trust in internet banking, and lack of access to urban centres or bank branches,” said Ascend Money chief executive officer Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa.
“Agent networks are crucial for bridging these gaps by providing the unbanked with cash-in and cash-out services, reliability and trust through an established local presence, and convenience of access beyond urban areas. We’re moving closer to fulfilling our mission of enabling everyone access to innovative financial services, leading to better lives,” he said.
Ascend Money currently has more than 20 million customers, half of whom are based in Thailand. Following the successful rollout of TrueMoney Wallet across Thailand in major retail outlets such as True Coffee shops and 7-Eleven convenience stores, Ascend Money is leveraging Ant Financial’s technical and strategic expertise to expand its services and payment options to increase convenience for digital users.
TrueMoney users in Thailand are now able to pay for purchases in the App Store, Apple Music and iTunes directly from the TrueMoney account.
Ascend Money has already reached 16,000 agents in Indonesia and recently announced its cooperation with BNI, Indonesia’s fourth largest bank, to enable 16,000 TrueMoney agents to provide banking services to rural communities who have not been touched by banking services.
Through TrueMoney agents, unbanked customers can open an account, deposit and withdraw cash, purchase phone and utility credits, and pay monthly bills. TrueMoney is one of the largest non-bank e-money providers and the first non-bank fintech firm to hold a remittance license as well as a Shariah-complaint e-money license, critical for reaching a large percentage of Indonesian consumers.
Between 2016 and 2017, Ascend Money launched TrueMoney payroll services in Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines. Through the service, employees can cash out with Ascend Money’s agents or transfer money directly into their bank account.
“Serving more 100 companies and almost 30,000 employees across three countries, Ascend Money’s new payroll services address another pain point in accessing financial services—the burden micro, small, and medium sized enterprises face when to applying for and maintaining employee payroll accounts with banks.
“Faced with limited bank players, complicated documentation and high maintenance fees, MSMEs, which make up the backbone of Southeast Asian economies, can now easily access financial services that were previously unavailable,” said Vichitkulwongsa.
Ascend Money has expanded rapidly across the region, with the Philippines and Vietnam as the newest markets. With 10,000 agents across both countries, it will introduce services for both digital consumers and the unbanked, including the e-wallet app, bill payment and remittance services.
In Cambodia and Myanmar, where Ascend Money’s agent networks already exceed the number of outlets of the largest banks, users can make domestic money transfers, phone top up, and bill payments.
In Myanmar, Ascend Money has recently partnered with the VisionFund, a microfinance NGO, to expand their agent networks to rural households. Through the partnership, the VisionFund’s 600 mobile agents will provide all TrueMoney services while VisionFund customers can repay loans at any TrueMoney agent nationwide.
“As we continue to innovate and add new services to improve the lives of ASEAN consumers, Ascend Money is rapidly expanding our footprint through partnerships that bring financial services to the heart of Southeast Asia. Whether we’re reaching one of the region’s 200 million digital consumersor one of the 438 million unbanked, the opportunity to access greater financial stability will help unlock Southeast Asia’s economic potential and future prosperity,” said Vichitkulwongsa.
Ascend Money is the only Southeast Asian fintech company licensed to provide e-money financial services across Southeast Asia’s major markets. The push for financial inclusion through mobile payments is underscored by Southeast Asia’s 300 million mobile internet users. Across the region, around 90-95% of the population use mobile phones.