Prajit Nanu, Co-Founder and CEO, Instarem
Yogesh Sangle, Head of Asia-Pacific, South Asia and Middle East, MoneyGram
Molly Shea, SVP and General Manager, APAC, Western Union
Catherine Wines, Co-Founder and Director, WorldRemit
Ceu Pereira, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank Group
The Asia-Pacific remittance market is in high growth. With 15% of global remittance flows and more than 690 million mobile accounts, the region has moved from a majority remittance receiving region to a sending region. As a result, Asia-Pacific is becoming the site with the most new start-ups and innovative technologies.
The panel discussed important trends in the Asia-Pacific remittance market.
Migration: this phenomenon will continue as long as there are people seeking a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Mobile technology: mobile technology has changed the world, and will continue to change the remittance market. By allowing for very small transfers to greater number of people, it helps bring financial inclusion to poor and unbanked population, and further puts spending power directly in the hands of more women. In order to reap the benefits of this innovation, the entire financial eco-system needs to evolve, as an e-wallet will be worthless unless there are vendors to accept electronic payments.
Cash: despite changes in technology, cash remains the primary form of payment (90% of remittances received), and is likely to remain dominant for the near future. Customers are slow to change; some still distrust the electronic payments, and some find digital transactions more expensive than cash. However, as customers grow to become more sophisticated, the demand for real time, and more accessible and convenient, services are likely to increase. Accordingly, the adoption of digital money will likely increase although depending on factors such as costs.
Regulation: regulations are viewed as lagging in keeping pace with the increasing demand for technology. This trend will continue to represent one of the challenges for newcomers to the market. Inconsistent regulations keep out new entrants (especially in the area of licensing non-bank financial institutions), whose competition could help drive down costs. But new players are not only competitors. Restrictive regulation may hinder innovation that could benefit existing businesses, as well as customers.
In order to capitalize on Asia-Pacific market trends:
- Public sector could:
- Educate the public on the safety and security of digital money in order to facilitate its availability and use;
- Create new legislative categories for non-bank FSPs;
- Allow fintechs to provide services that banks do not; and
- Streamline the licensing process.
- Public sector could:
- Private sector could:
- Collaborate and create partnerships among private industry to leverage expertise in new technologies; and
- Be agile and keep up with changing technologies, so that users will choose what is easiest and what they trust; and
- Take advantage of the popularity of using mobile phones – particularly among migrants without a bank account – to develop appropriate products and expand access.