Financial Services Update: May 3, 2020

Financial Services Update | May 3, 2020
Authors: Michaela Wong, Marc Mealy, Nick Zuroski 

Digital Banking Services Take on New Role Under COVID-19

As COVID-19 brings strict lockdown and social distancing measures across Southeast Asia, the region’s economy has experienced a stronger push toward a cashless economy.  Singapore’s largest bank, DBS Bank, has seen the number of cashless transactions double in the first quarter of 2020 compared to last year, driven largely by the increased use of delivery apps and a decline in over-the-counter cash use.  DBS Bank’s cash withdrawal and deposit volume has also fallen by 11% during the first three months of this year.  Online grocery shopping using cards belonging to United Overseas Bank (UOB) has increased 44% during the same period. 

In a report published at the beginning of April, Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Center (EIC) in Thailand noted that COVID-19 is driving consumers toward e-commerce spending behaviors.  LINE MAN—one of Thailand’s on-demand assistant applications—has seen its food delivery service triple during the outbreak, and plans to use the increase in business to expand its services across 15 provinces in 2020.  Kasikorn Bank, Thailand’s largest lender and digital banking services provider, opened 30,000 new K-eSavings accounts during the 10-day period in which banks were not allowed to open new accounts in person.  The bank’s mobile banking app users have increased to more than 12 million compared to 11 million at the end of last year, while Siam Commercial Bank opened more than 10,000 savings accounts during the final three days of March. 

In the Philippines, a report recently released by RCBC observed that the daily number of digital platform signups increased 117% during the first two weeks of the Luzon lockdown compared to the two weeks prior.  UnionBank has seen an 160% increase in its daily signups for online and mobile banking platforms and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) recorded a 25% increase in the volume of its digital retail transactions. Grabpay’s cashless transactions in Malaysia have increased by 170% since the beginning of the country’s Movement Control Order on March 18. 

However, the pandemic’s drag on international business and logistics has caused the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to extend its groundbreaking digital banking license scheme’s assessment period to the second half of this year.  MAS confirmed in January that it had received 21 applications for the licenses.  Successful applicants—of which there will be up to five—will now be informed later in 2020 instead of by June as originally planned.  Notable applicants include Ant Financial, Razer Fintech, and Grab.  MAS stated that the assessment period extension aims to “allow the digital bank license applicants to dedicate their resources and attention towards managing the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses,” as well as “enable MAS to focus resources on ensuring monetary and financial stability.”  Additionally, Bank Negara Malaysia recently extended the application process for its digital banking license scheme from April 30 to June 30. 

Southeast Asian Health and Delivery Startups Surge in Funding As Other Industries Struggle

While COVID-19 dries up funding for a majority of startups just establishing their financial footing, health sector startups have seen new flows of investor money as part of an effort to address the pandemic through both top-down and bottom-up initiatives.  Telehealth app Doctor Anywhere in Singapore, which consists of a practitioner network across Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, raised $27 million at the end of March through a series B funding round.  Its investors included IHH Healthcare, a Malaysian hospital operator.  The app’s funding has nearly doubled throughout the COVID-19 crisis.  Finian Tan, the chairman of Vickers Ventures Partners in Singapore, stated that his firm has shifted to investing in healthcare startups to increase vaccine and testing capacity as part of an attack “from every and any angle.”

In Vietnam, drugstore chain Pharmacity raised $31.8 million during the first three months of 2020.  Southeast Asian insurance startups have also been given new wind in their sails.  Digital insurance startup Qoala in Indonesia announced on April 21 that it raised $13.5 million during a series A financing round, led by Kookmin Bank in South Korea and Telkom Indonesia. Singapore’s Axinan recently raised $8.2 million during an extended series A round led by InVent, the corporate venture capital arm of Intouch Holdings.  Logistics and delivery startups have also seen increased flows of funding.  Gojek in Indonesia and Grab in Singapore, two leading ride-hailing and food delivery startups, received approximately 80% of the new funds raised in the first three months of this year.  Logistics startups overall have had their funds triple during the first quarter of 2020 to more than $56 million. 

The increases in funding stand in contrast to overall trends among startups in the region.  Southeast Asian startups raised $26.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020—a 10% decrease compared to the same period in 2019.  According to data collected by UK aggregator Preqin, the $2.2 billion raised by Asia-focused venture capital firms during the first quarter of 2020 represents a seven-year low. 

Solidarity Fund for ASEAN Fintech Firms Launched

On April 16, Hong Kong-based AMTD Group in partnership with the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) announced a $35 million solidarity fund for fintech firms across the ASEAN region.  The fund will provide financial assistance to firms registered within the cross-border API Exchange Platform (APIX).  Its support for firms struggling under the COVID-19 economic slowdown will consist of longstanding convertible notes, venture debt type investments, and equity, as well as a grant scheme under the Singapore Fintech Association.  In addition, fintech firms on the AFIN platform will be connected to AMTD’s SpiderNet system, which spans across Southeast Asia, China, and Hong Kong.  

The Singapore Fintech Association later on April 23 announced a partnership with Razer Fintech that aims to support the struggling fintech community in Singapore.  That initiative disburses financing, equity, or equity-linked instruments amounting to $100,000 to $1.5 million, based on the firm’s “current stage of growth and business needs.”  It will also include marketing and cash flow support programs and assistance with monitoring and due diligence processes.  The partnership builds off of Razer’s previously announced $50 million COVID-19 support fund, which waives annual fees for Southeast Asian merchants under the Razer Merchant Services payment platform.  It also follows the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s official measures supporting the city-state’s financial institutions and fintech sector, which entail $63 million in workforce training and manpower costs and $24 million in for digitalization and operation efforts.

Government-sanctioned payment deferments on consumer and business loans across ASEAN have introduced great financial difficulties for fintech startups.  In Indonesia, for example, following a government recommendation that financial institutions defer payments on loans, credit provider startup Akulaku was suspended from the Mintos peer-to-peer lending platform after failing to repay $5.1 million to investors.  Indonesian consumer finance startup Kredit Pintar has been forced to almost completely halt loan disbursement.  Fintech firms play a vital role in the Southeast Asian economy, where almost three quarters of the population lacks access to a formal bank account.  In the Philippines, fintech firms like peer-to-peer agricultural lending platform Cropital have developed new ways for local farmers to remotely apply for loans and receive disbursements.  Nearly 80% of the Philippines’ adult population is ineligible for traditional bank loans. 

Market Development
Oriente is positioned to roll out its tech infrastructure in Southeast Asia after raising $50 million in funding
Gojek Completes Deal for Payments Startup
Fintech inks deal to expand reach
EMQ Amps Up Turnkey Solutions for Next-generation Enterprises in Indonesia
9F Group promotes digital transformations in SEA in COVID-19 times
GoBear deploys Provenir Cloud for digital financial services in Asean
Fintech Galaxy and ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) to support cross-border growth of FinTechs in MENA and Asia
Singapore Digital Payment Provider Expands Abroad
PayMaya, SSS team up for release of cash subsidy
Foreign selling of local equity surged to RM638.6m last week, says MIDF Research
Fintech startups throw financial lifeline to Philippines' unbanked
AsiaPay partners with Plug and Play Singapore Fintech Program
Digital banking surges in sea change
Aviation, O&G and trading and services under stress
Prepare winning strategy to secure BNM’s digital banking license, says EY
SGX Holds Digital Listing Ceremony Amid "Circuit Breaker"
Digital banking seen preferred platform after Luzon lockdown
J Trust Royal and AIA Cambodia conclude systems integration work enabling advanced payables management technology for AIA Cambodia

Asset Management
Rocket Internet-backed Tinvio bags $5.6m in seed money
Indonesia central bank says yields bid too high at government bond auction
Japan's Saison Capital leads $10m funding in SG-based fintech startup Helicap
MCO gives REIT managers buying opportunities
PE firm Northstar makes first close of Indonesia-focused fifth fund
State Treasury raises $21.3 million from G-bonds
Fitch affirms 'BB' ratings on EVN, EVNNPT, PVN; revises outlooks to stable
PRASAC welcomes new shareholder to support growth
Singapore's logistics Ninja Van raises $124m in Series D round
Bond Investors Are Back, Even in Indonesia

Banks urged to further support COVID-19 affected customers
Coronavirus pandemic will likely end the strong profit growth in Singapore banks
JB Financial buys brokerage in VN, eyes SEA market
Singapore FinTech Association, Razer offer fintech firms up to $2.1m financing amid Covid-19
UOB Malaysia shutters eight branches in response to Covid-19 outbreak
Indonesia’s loan growth to slump to 4% amid pandemic: Economist
Techcombank offers US$1.27 billion package to support customers
Thailand's Kasikornbank to expand digital presence in Myanmar
SCB gets tentative nod for Myanmar licence
Myanmar allows Korean and Thai banks' entry to boost investment
Myanmar opens up to seven more Asian banks
COVID-19 batters Indonesia’s loan growth to record low
Moody’s downgrades Malaysia banking system outlook to negative
Banks support enterprises
Banks asked to cut lending rates to mitigate Covid 19 pandemic
Insolvency Dept offers six-month moratorium for bankrupt Malaysians

V Capital teams up with Cross River Bank, eyes digital banking licence in Malaysia
NetX inks deal to deploy forex platform with in-built e-wallet in Australia
E-money to keep growth; P700-billion inflow seen by 2021
Penang public markets to use e-wallet payment by June
PH e-payments goal gets boost during ECQ
Facebook in talks with Indonesia's e-payment companies for tie-up
More people go cashless, e-payment volume soars amid Covid-19 crisis
LinkAja launches Indonesia's first sharia e-wallet, backed by 1,000 mosques
Mobile money project to be submitted to the Government this month
Singtel's NCS Partners NETS to Develop New e-Payment Platform for Central Banks in Asia Pacific
MCO: CIMB says Touch 'n Go eWallet continues to see healthy volumes for essential services, online-based transactions
Touch 'n Go eWallet provides QR scan facility for direct donations to local NGOs
Electronic fund transfer fees to be cut by at least 50 per cent
Online shopping surges on Vietnam social distancing campaign
Azimo forms partnership with one of Thailand’s leading universal banks SCB to make transfers faster and cheaper
Cambodia records large spike in mobile business and e-learning application downloads
Digital payments nearly double in March amid virus outbreak

Philippines' Insurance Commission to fall under central bank's rule
AIA Cambodia Launches an Innovative Way of Working to Serve Customers Despite COVID-19 Disruption
AXA Asia expands telehealth rollout during COVID-19 pandemic
RHB Insurance offers relieve to policyholders affected by Covid-19
Malaysian insurer put up for sale again
Insurance can be sold online in Philippines despite quarantine
COVID-19 exposes flaws in Indonesia’s health insurance program
Indonesia Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules For Insurance Companies - Corporate/Commercial Law - Indonesia
Digi offers free Covid-19 insurance coverage to first 200,000 customers
Thai Insurer Gets Surprise Share Price Surge From Virus Coverage
Ministry of Finance asks insurers not to sell COVID-19-related products

Market Regulation
Myanmar Central Bank Cuts Rates by Another 1.5 Percentage Points Amid COVID-19 Slowdown
Philippines Sells $2.35 Billion of Bonds as It Fights Pandemic
Another 25bps OPR cut next month appears imminent, say analysts
Central Bank extends regulation compliance deadline to 2023
BSP waives interbank payment fees amid lockdown
SME Bank’s govt-guaranteed IMTN oversubscribed by 4.5 times
SSS taps PayMaya for loan disbursements
Singapore: 0.1% Lending Facility Launched to Support Lending to SMEs
Bursa Malaysia grants further extension of time to submit financial statements
Cambodia’s Central Bank Testing Digital Wallet to Ease Cross-Border Payments
State Securities Commission to launch one-stop information disclosure system
BSP cuts policy rate to record low
Monetary Authority of Singapore Introduces $125 Million Support Package for Fintech Firms and Other Financial Service Providers
Covid-19 Delays Award of Digital Bank Licenses
BSP trims smaller lenders’ liquidity ratio requirement
MCO: RM1 interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee waived
LYHOUR Microfinance Institution Plc. receives Banking License from National Bank of Cambodia
Market Development

Oriente is positioned to roll out its tech infrastructure in Southeast Asia after raising $50 million in funding Business Insider 29th Apr 2020
The Hong Kong-based startup has raised $50 million in its ongoing Series B funding round, according to TechCrunch. Launched in part by Skype cofounder Geoff Prentice, Oriente develops end-to-end digital financial services infrastructure that uses AI, machine learning, and data science.  The startup targets both consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The new funding will be used for Oriente to grow in its existing markets — namely the Philippines and Indonesia — and expand into new countries, including Vietnam. The startup also plans to continue improving its technology and products, such as real-time credit scoring, digital and offline-to-online lending, and other tailored financial services. The new funding will help Oriente expand its tech infrastructure to emerging Southeast Asian (SEA) markets — the region is particularly open to digital financial solutions due to its large underserved consumer base and lack of opportunities for customers to connect with SMBs. Fintech startups that enable scalable digital infrastructure and facilitate financial inclusion will contribute to the growth of digital financial services in SEA, which is expected to rapidly expand in the coming years. Digital financial services currently bring in $11 billion in revenue in SEA — and this was expected to more than triple to $38 billion and account for 11% of total financial services revenue by 2025, per Bain & Company, though coronavirus-related economic fallout will likely temper these expectations. As fintechs compete to develop digital solutions that simplify processes and onboarding, millions of unbanked individuals in the region are likely to seize the opportunity to gain access to financial services. This consumer need for better financial services will fuel widespread fintech adoption.

Gojek Completes Deal for Payments Startup 23rd Apr 2020
Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek completed the deal for Moka, announced in December, for $130 million a month ago, according to a "Bloomberg" report that cited people familiar with the deal. This means the acquisition was made in the wake of the ride-hailing giant's $1.2 billion Series F raise in mid-March, which brought the current round's total rise to almost $3 billion.  Launched in 2011, Gojek has been expanding its platform to include a range of on-demand services and allow its customers to make online payments, and has been beefing up its coffers to take on regional rival Grab in ride-hailing, meal deliveries and payments. It is the second POS SaaS platform that Gojek has acquired after Nadipos (now rebranded as Spots) in late 2018.

Fintech inks deal to expand reach BusinessMirror 23rd Apr 2020
Finance technology (fintech) company UBX Philippines Inc. announced on April 23 it has entered into agreements with non-monetary financial institutions (MFIs) to expand its reach. UBX, the fintech platform of Union Bank of the Philippines, said it has allowed entry into its i21 network LBC Express Inc., PeraHub operator Petnet Inc. and Cebuana Lhuillier Services Corp. UBX said i21 rural bank members are now linked to outlets of these companies. This adds 11,000 new locations for customers to settle transactions, the fintech firm said. UBX Philippines President John Januszczak said he believes the deals hatched with the non-MFIs will help a lot of Filipinos who need access to send and receive funds, especially during this pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine.” Earlier, UBX rolled its remote mobile-enabled automated teller machine (ATM) solution, which allows rural banks and financial cooperatives across the country to distribute government subsidies to beneficiaries. The fintech firm explained that the mobile ATM operates like a standard ATM, offering services like withdrawals and balance inquiry. The i21 network has now over 110 members with nearly 1,000 branches, UBX Philippines said.

EMQ Amps Up Turnkey Solutions for Next-generation Enterprises in Indonesia Yahoo Finance 22nd Apr 2020
EMQ, a global financial settlement network, today announced a significant enhancement to its cross-border payment solution, which enables businesses both locally and globally to seamlessly expand their reach and further improve their payment capabilities with greater speed, certainty and increased flexibility. Additionally, the company’s Fund Transfer Operator license from Bank Indonesia, provides businesses with fully compliant access to the payment ecosystem to and from over 80 key global markets. Powered by EMQ’s tech enabled financial settlement network and a single API integration businesses including e-commerce, payment service providers and SMEs in Indonesia, are able to make and receive payments quickly and transparently to and from over 80 key global markets. The company’s scalable API driven platform with high availability is designed to meet the needs of businesses with high transaction volumes, enabling them to streamline their workflows for a seamless user experience. In addition, global businesses can also access millions of mobile wallets and bank accounts in Indonesia. With a network footprint touching billions of people, EMQ recently ramped up its network expansion across Asia Pacific, Africa and North America, including product enhancements throughout Southeast Asia. The company is currently licensed in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and registered as a Money Service Business in Canada. EMQ was also accepted into Taiwan’s Regulatory Sandbox by the Financial Supervisory Commission in Taiwan.

9F Group promotes digital transformations in SEA in COVID-19 times IBS Intelligence 22nd Apr 2020
9F Group announced its strategies of using digital technologies as a bridgehead to help local banks and enterprises on digital transformations and other challenging situations.  Together with Japan’s SBI Holdings as existing investors, it participated in Indonesian P2P firm Investree’s Series C round which closed $23.5 million in funding. Regarding traditional financial institutions in Southeast Asia (SEA), The 9F Group recently reached into a strategic cooperation with the Chief (Cambodia) Commercial Bank where the two parties will jointly launch online micro loan services. This is expected to benefit locals with a simpler and more convenient digital financial inclusion service amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Chief Bank will be provided with customized digital financial solutions including a front-end mobile app, full-process online lending system, credit review system and other modules, thereby leading to improvement in the level of digital financial infrastructure. The group provided a digital wallet for a jewellery retailer in Thailand to enable the client to tap into a new age and audience of the digital economy. A trusted platform of e-certificate based on the blockchain technology was built. The blockchain-based e-certificate contains information such as origin data, logistic data, and transaction data. The traceability and immutability characters of the blockchain technology will also, in turn, strengthen the brand image of the client by providing credibility on their products. Besides cooperation with 25 licensed financial institutions, the group also engaged in collaborations in the technology field with Alibaba Cloud and Huawei Cloud. In addition, it has stated that it is actively recruiting local talents and incubating innovations in the SEA region. Recently, Wilfred Yong, Executive Director of SilverLake Innovation in Malaysia, was appointed by the group’s digital technology advantages and ideas.

GoBear deploys Provenir Cloud for digital financial services in Asean Finextra Research 22nd Apr 2020
Provenir, a leader in risk decisioning and data analytics software, announced today that GoBear has chosen the Provenir Platform to power innovative user experiences for its customers, and has deployed the technology through a ‘virtual’ team approach amidst the current COVID-19 crisis. Singapore-based fintech GoBear is an industry-leading and highly innovative financial services organization focused on improving financial inclusion throughout the ASEAN region. The Provenir Platform was selected for its ability to support GoBear’s innovation plans and to empower the business to meet the increasing demand for simplified, digital-first banking experiences throughout the region. GoBear will use the Platform to process and assess insurance and loan applications in real-time through Provenir’s cloud-based risk analytics solution and use the low-code Platform to rapidly implement and iterate risk processes.

Fintech Galaxy and ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) to support cross-border growth of FinTechs in MENA and Asia Zawya 22nd Apr 2020
Fintech Galaxy, the MENA region’s first cross-border, open innovation platform and marketplace for collaboration between FinTechs and financial institutions, has signed a partnership agreement with the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) to facilitate greater integration between FinTech hubs across the MENA region as well as Asia, while promoting AFIN’s API Exchange (APIX) platform to the FinTech community, further contributing to the development of the industry. Furthermore, Fintech Galaxy is set to launch its new and enhanced platform in July this year to cater to the evolving and increasingly sophisticated ecosystem. Through this partnership, Fintech Galaxy and AFIN will mutually work on a number of initiatives supporting the development of financial innovations on both platforms. Together, both parties will strive for greater collaboration, including sharing market expertise, knowledge and insights with each other on matters relating to the fintech industry, both parties’ events and initiatives, and finally supporting each other in interfacing with respective regulators and other bodies. AFIN is a not-for-profit organization founded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the ASEAN Bankers Association (ABA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, with the aim of supporting financial innovation, development and enhancing economic integration within the ASEAN region, through broader adoption of financial technology innovations on the APIX platform.

Singapore Digital Payment Provider Expands Abroad 22nd Apr 2020
Digital payment and digital banking solution provider Fomo Pay has opened an office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has partnered OCBC Bank on a cross-border funds collection service. Fomo Pay has made its first overseas foray into Malaysia, and has partnered OCBC Bank (Malaysia) to develop the country's first merchant cross-border QR code collection service, the Singapore-based firm announced on its blog. Under the partnership, Malaysia merchants can collect payments from Singapore customers on PayNow via direct QR code payments through OCBC OneCollect. Prior to this, QR code payments in Malaysia could only be done for local ringgit currency transactions. Fomo's decision to open an office in Kuala Lumpur ties in with the company's expansion strategy to focus on Southeast Asia and other emerging economies, which are undergoing rapid digital transformation, it said. Fomo Pay allows merchants to accept a full suite of new payment methods including WeChat Pay, NETSPay, Grab Pay, SingTel Dash, EZLink Pay, mVISA and more. It was launched in 2015 and acquired 4,000 merchants within its first year. Its network now includes Changi Airport, Marina Bay Sands, StarHub, Jumbo, Club 21, Chanel, Singapore Press Holdings and more.

PayMaya, SSS team up for release of cash subsidy Business World 21st Apr 2020
Digital payments firm PayMaya Philippines, Inc. and state-run Social Security System (SSS) have partnered for the “easier” disbursement of cash assistance to more than 3 million workers affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. “Eligible employers and their respective employees can now link their PayMaya accounts in the My.SSS online portal, so that they can conveniently receive their wage subsidies when the disbursements start next month. Depending on their location, eligible employees stand to receive P5,000 to P8,000 in subsidies from the government through the SSS. Employers have until April 30, 2020 to submit their applications at the SSS website (,” PayMaya said.

Foreign selling of local equity surged to RM638.6m last week, says MIDF Research The Edge Markets 20th Apr 2020
Foreign selling of local equity on Bursa Malaysia accelerated to RM638.6 million the week of April 13, compared to RM326.0 million disposed of in the preceding week, according to MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd Research. In his weekly fund flow report today, MIDF Research’s Adam M Rahim said that in comparison to its other six Asian peers that MIDF Research monitors, Malaysia remains as the nation with the third smallest foreign net outflow on a year-to-date (YTD) basis. He said the YTD foreign outflow from Malaysia came to RM9.1 billion. “The pace of foreign net selling on Monday remained steady below RM100 million as foreign investors only sold RM76.8 million of local equities. “Foreign investors took the opportunity to accumulate some local equities on Tuesday at a tune of RM20.3 million amidst reports that China’s exports posted a lesser-than-expected decline in March 2020, falling by only 6.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) compared to the consensus of a 14.0% y-o-y drop,” he said. Adam said the momentum of foreign net selling accelerated further to RM240.1 million on Thursday amidst lackluster trading on Wall Street spurred by the US industrial output which experienced the biggest drop in more than 70 years last month. “In terms of participation, foreign investors were the only investor group which saw its average daily traded value (ADTV) increase for the week by 5.6% to RM1.03 billion while retail and institutional investors saw a weekly decline in ADTV by 11.7% and 3.2% respectively,” he said.

Fintech startups throw financial lifeline to Philippines' unbanked Nikkei Asian Review 18th Apr 2020
As the Southeast Asian digital economy expands beyond online shopping, a host of startups are using financial technology to give the unbanked Filipino majority access to loans from individual and institutional lenders. The province of Nueva Ecija, to the north of Manila, is known as the granary of the Philippines. Peer-to-peer lending platform Cropital is working hard to connect farmers there in need of financing to potential lenders. Cropital interviews each farmer to determine ability to repay. Those who pass screening are listed on the platform and can receive seeds, fertilizer and cash from willing lenders. After harvest, the loan is repaid with monthly interest -- 2% on average. The lenders are more interested in supporting farmers than profiting, according to Cropital CEO Ruel Amparo. The company has distributed a total of 70 million pesos ($1.38 million) to 1,200 farmers since going live in 2016, largely from overseas Filipino workers with extra cash on hand. In the Philippines, 52 million people, or nearly 80% of adults, are ineligible for bank loans. Many end up borrowing money from acquaintances or loan sharks to cover unforeseen expenses. Combined with highly developed money transfer services, used by throngs of overseas workers to send money back home, the country is seen as fertile ground for fintech startups. The boom extends beyond peer-to-peer lending. Japan-based Global Mobility Service has made it easier for banks to lend to drivers of tricycles -- motor-powered rickshaws common on Philippine streets -- so that they can buy their own vehicles instead of renting.

AsiaPay partners with Plug and Play Singapore Fintech Program AsiaPay partners with Plug and Play Singapore Fintech Program 16th Apr 2020
Plug and Play, the world's largest global innovation platform, and AsiaPay, the regional leading digital payment service and solution provider, have announced a new partnership to help AsiaPay work closer with innovative startups through Plug and Play's Singapore Fintech program. The primary focus will be startups with pioneering and innovative solutions to enhance the quality of the financial services and e-Commerce industries. Through this new partnership in Singapore, AsiaPay seeks to specifically pilot innovation projects throughout their Southeast Asia businesses. AsiaPay joins Plug and Play for their fourth batch of the Fintech accelerator program, which together with their Insurtech program will is currently accelerating 23 startups from across the world in a three-month program which started last week. Starting from late 2019, AsiaPay announced its pilot venture program which aims at incubating startups to accelerate regionally with their innovative solutions offerings.

Digital banking surges in sea change Bangkok Post 16th Apr 2020
The pandemic has ravaged businesses and forced social distancing, spiking demand for remote and digital services as well as online banking. Opening bank accounts online has surged after all commercial and state banks closed all branches nationwide in Thailand during March 28-29 and banned account opening services for another eight days due to crowds of people inside and outside several branches one day ahead of the application period for the government's 5,000-baht monthly cash handout. These trends are helping banks acquire new customers at an unprecedented rate as more people shift to the digital channel for banking transactions. Kasikornbank (KBank), the country's largest lender by assets and leading digital banking service provider, recorded 30,000 new K-eSavings accounts opened during the 10 days when all banks banned opening new accounts in person, said senior executive vice-president Wirawat Panthawangkun. The 30,000 accounts represent 25% of those who applied for K-eSavings accounts during the period. There are around 1,000-2,000 applicants every day for deposit products, but only 10-15% completed the identity authentication process through ATMs. As a result of the pandemic, K-Plus users have increased to more than 12 million from around 11 million at the end of last year, he said. According to Bank of Thailand data, PromptPay transactions in March surged to 11 million per day, up from 5.7 million a year earlier. Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the country's fourth biggest lender and No.2 in mobile banking services, has also seen higher demand in online deposit account opening and digital lending. Co-president Apiphan Charoenanusorn said more than 10,000 new bank customers opened savings accounts through mobile banking app SCB Easy and completed verification of their identities at 7-Eleven's Counter Service in the final three days of March, indicating rising awareness of the digital banking platform.

Aviation, O&G and trading and services under stress NST Online 16th Apr 2020
Default rates in Malaysia’s corporate bond market have declined significantly to below one per cent up to last year, since the Asian Financial Crisis, the Securities Commission said. The SC executive director of market and corporate supervision Kamarudin Hashim said there were several issuance segments that may see higher risks to their credit positions. This is due to uncertainties developing from the Covid-19 pandemic as well as slower global economic growth. Kamarudin said aviation, oil and gas as well as trading and services were under stress. The sectors currently represent about 8.0 per cent of the total corporate bond issuances. Kamarudin said there should be sufficient buffers before cash flow become severely constrained in the event of credit deterioration. “Several of these issuers within these segments have some form of support in the form of guarantees; be it financial guarantees, corporate guarantees or Danajamin guarantees,” he added.

Prepare winning strategy to secure BNM’s digital banking license, says EY Malay Mail 10th Apr 2020
To win a digital banking license, applicants must convince Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) that they have a winning strategy, including the right business model and technology, said Ernst & Young Advisory Services Sdn Bhd (EY). Financial inclusion, innovative technology and capital strength of at least RM100 million will be the key factors for Malaysian applicants, the consulting firm said. It said currently, BNM is proposing to issue up to five licenses to qualified applicants to set up digital banks that conduct either a conventional or Islamic banking business. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the central bank had announced that the deadline to respond to consultation papers on the digital banking licensing framework has been extended to June 30, 2020, and possibly beyond. To get through the first round of screening, EY said applicants must be able to demonstrate financial inclusion, including offering meaningful access and responsible, affordable financial solutions. “BNM is looking for product strategies that meet the needs of the underserved and unserved banking segments, especially the poor. And the central bank is likely to be particularly interested in value propositions from non-bank applicants that address niche market needs,” it said in an article titled “EY Insights: How Covid-19 Will Affect Digital Banking in Malaysia” released today.

SGX Holds Digital Listing Ceremony Amid "Circuit Breaker" 9th Apr 2020
AMTD International became the first company to be listed with a digital ceremony on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Wednesday, one day after the city-state's nationwide «circuit breaker» that lasts until May 4.  The company, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based financial services conglomerate AMTD Group, is already listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and is the first with a dual-class share structure to list on the Mainboard, bringing the total number of secondary listings on SGX to 30. As a landmark transaction, SGX held a live broadcast of the digital listing ceremony on Facebook and YouTube.  AMTD Digital, the digital finance arm of AMTD Group, in March acquired a controlling stake in Singapore digital insurance broker PolicyPal as part of its plans to build a Southeast Asian fintech platform headquartered in the city-state. Previously AMTD received a virtual bank license in Hong Kong, in partnership with Xiaomi. It is also part of consortia bidding for digital banking licenses in Singapore and Malaysia.

Digital banking seen preferred platform after Luzon lockdown BusinessMirror 8th Apr 2020
Following the anticipated conclusion of the monthlong Luzon lockdown, customer behavior toward banking may change as more could be expected opting to use digital channels after the community quarantine. To compensate, monetary authorities and local bank executives have been urging the customers to transact online via digital platforms at the comfort and safety of their homes. UnionBank, for its part, recently introduced a new online platform it dubbed “Dashboard,” which allows user to transfer funds, pay bills and manage accounts and credit cards, among others. In a recent report, RCBC noted that the daily average of new signups in the first two weeks of the enhanced community quarantine rose by 117 percent from the two weeks prior.

J Trust Royal and AIA Cambodia conclude systems integration work enabling advanced payables management technology for AIA Cambodia Khmer Times 7th Apr 2020
J Trust Royal Bank (“JTRB”) and AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) has announced the successful integration of JTRB’s Core Banking System and AIA Cambodia’s Enterprise Resource Planning System (“ERP”) for Payables Management. This integration will bring to each and every one of AIA Cambodia’s vendors the benefit of using advanced payables management system in the market today. JTRB is making a significant investment in digitizing the Cambodian market. This includes technology that enables automation of standardized payment file exchange between customers’ ERP with Swift FileAct solution. AIA Cambodia is among the first of our customers to benefit from this integration project.

Asset Management

Rocket Internet-backed Tinvio bags $5.6m in seed money TechinAsia 29th Apr 2020
Many small and medium-sized merchants today still manage orders with their suppliers through email or phone calls, and invoices and payments continue to be exchanged largely in paper. These make operations very tedious for these business owners, in addition to their lack of access to financing and credit scoring. Tinvio, an early-stage startup backed by Rocket Internet, digitizes orders with suppliers for small and medium-sized merchants through its communication and commerce platform that is designed to increase business efficiency and profitability. Tinvio provides a chat-to-order mobile experience that enables users to send messages and orders more easily. The app also generates a digital ledger of all orders, invoices, and issues for real-time monitoring and analysis. The Singapore-based company said it has secured S$8 million (US$5.6 million) in seed funding to invest in product development and market expansion. The round was led by Sequoia Capital’s accelerator Surge, with Global Founders Capital and Partech Partners as participating investors. Amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Tinvio said it has launched a number of initiatives to support local businesses, including the Save Our Nomnoms movement that helps raise awareness for Singapore’s food and beverage brands. It will also continue to invest capital to help businesses go digital during the crisis.

Indonesia central bank says yields bid too high at government bond auction 29th Apr 2020
Bond investors should not bet on Indonesia selling debt at higher yields, as the amount to be raised for the rest of the year will be manageable and capital inflows will push yields lower, central bank governor Perry Warjiyo said on April 29. Warjiyo's comments come a day after the government raised 16.62 trillion rupiah ($1.08 billion) at its regular bi-weekly auction, below target, despite total incoming bids of 44.4 trillion rupiah. The government called for a greenshoe option auction on Wednesday for a maximum of 23.8 trillion rupiah, covering for the target it did not meet the previous day. Warjiyo told an online news conference the central bank bought 2.3 trillion rupiah in Tuesday's auction as a non-competitive bidder and may purchase more in the additional auction. The governor suggested investors had bet the government would pay higher yields due to its ballooning budget deficit this year as it ramps up funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The government's fiscal deficit is expected to swell to 5.07% of GDP this year, the widest in more than a decade, and far higher than an earlier plan for a 1.76% deficit. This means the government would have to bump up its gross issuance of debt to 1,400 trillion rupiah ($91.32 billion) this year. Warjiyo said the government would not raise all of that in the bond market as its cash and loans from development banks were expected to cover for some 500 trillion rupiah. BI's new secondary reserve requirement ratio would also mean commercial banks will buy another 100 trillion rupiah. The total amount to be raised in the bond market for the rest of 2020 was seen at around 425 trillion rupiah, indicating that the target in each auction will not jump very much, he said. By early May, BI would have injected a total of 503.8 trillion rupiah of additional liquidity to the financial system to help cushion the economic impact of the virus outbreak, in operations Warjiyo called "quantitative easing".

Japan's Saison Capital leads $10m funding in SG-based fintech startup Helicap DealStreetAsia 29th Apr 2020
Helicap, a Singapore-based fintech platform operating in the alternative lending market in Southeast Asia and Australia, has raised $10 million in a Series A round, its co-founder and CEO David Z Wang told DealStreetAsia. The round was led by Saison Capital, the corporate venture arm of Japanese financial services firm Credit Saison. Others who participated in the funding round include its existing backer East Ventures and new investors Access Ventures and multi-family office Lamivoie, besides a host of high net worth individuals (HNIs). The firm invests across seed to Series A levels in companies across Southeast Asia and India. DealStreetAsia had reported Helicap’s fundraising plans and its roping in Access Ventures for its latest round in March. The investment brings Helicap’s total funding to almost $18 million. The funds raised will help the company enhance its proprietary credit scoring technology and explore solutions and opportunities in the private debt space.

MCO gives REIT managers buying opportunities The Edge Markets 23rd Apr 2020
The Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to present the real estate investment trust (REIT) sector with buying opportunities, said an industry player. Stephan Tew, non-executive director at Axis REIT Managers Bhd, said he believes the MCO will not hurt REITs as much as other property sectors. “There are a couple of REITs that are trading at 50 percent of their net tangible assets. So, there are a lot of buying opportunities, but the owners sure have their plan for the company. Therefore, you find that no one has really gone ahead and done a merger. So, I don’t see that (merger) happening at the moment,” Tew said during a webinar organized by the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) on the multi-sector market outlook. Citing Axis REIT, he said despite the MCO, the company is busy, having received a lot of deals from agents, and is allocating RM400 million this year to seek out new assets. Last year, the industrial REIT posted strong growth amid demand mainly from international players from the e-commerce market, and is set to continue growing going forward. In addition, he said, there is strong demand for central kitchens amid growing food delivery platforms. However, he said for the hotel REIT industry, three-star and below hotels are set to benefit from an improving domestic tourism sector post-COVID-19 following the personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on spending related to domestic tourism announced by the Government under Budget 2020.

PE firm Northstar makes first close of Indonesia-focused fifth fund DealStreetAsia 22nd Apr 2020
Southeast Asian private equity firm Northstar Group has made a first close of its fifth fund – Northstar Equity Partners V Limited (Northstar V) – after raising about a third of its $800-million target, it said on April 22. Like its predecessor, the fifth fund will target growth-stage companies predominantly in Indonesia, while also remaining open to opportunities in other Southeast Asian markets such as Singapore and Vietnam. Northstar V will focus on investments in key growth sectors across Southeast Asia, including consumers, financial services and digital economy, and the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm said. The latest fund has already received backing from a diverse group of investors, including sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, institutional investors, family offices and high net worth individual investors. The previous fund closed at around $800 million in 2015 and was 80 per cent deployed as of January 2020. With the first close of Northstar V, the Northstar Group now manages over $2 billion in assets under management. Founded in 2003, the firm, which counts US private equity giant TPG Capital as a shareholder, has invested in more than 30 companies across the banking, insurance, consumer/retail, manufacturing, oil and gas, coal and mining services, technology, telecom, and agribusiness sectors. Northstar’s portfolio includes Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek and Vietnamese e-commerce company Tiki and edtech startup Topica.

State Treasury raises $21.3 million from G-bonds 17th Apr 2020
The State Treasury mobilised VNĐ500 billion (US$21.27 million) through a Government bond auction on the Hà Nội Stock Exchange (HNX) on Wednesday. Some VNĐ3.5 trillion worth of G-bonds were offered, including 10-year and 15-year bonds each valued at VNĐ1.5 trillion, and 30-year bonds valued at VNĐ500 billion. The State Treasury raised VNĐ300 billion worth of ten-year bonds with an annual average yield rate of 2.28 per cent, up 0.1 percentage points from the previous auction on March 11.

Fitch affirms 'BB' ratings on EVN, EVNNPT, PVN; revises outlooks to stable 14th Apr 2020
Fitch Ratings has affirmed issuer default ratings and senior unsecured ratings of Vietnam Electricity (EVN), National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) and Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN) at 'BB'. However, the rating agency has revised the three companies' outlooks to stable from positive.

PRASAC welcomes new shareholder to support growth Khmer Times 13th Apr 2020
PRASAC, the largest microfinance deposit-taking license institution with 25 years of experience in Cambodia financial market, announces a new majority shareholder from South Korea, KB Kookmin Bank. KB Kookmin Bank, a leading commercial bank in South Korea, has successfully acquired 70 percent of PRASAC Microfinance on April 10, 2020. It allows PRASAC to become one of the subsidiaries of KB Financial Group. KB Kookmin also plans to incorporate the company as a wholly owned subsidiary when it acquires additional 30% of remaining shares in the future. PRASAC operates across Cambodia with 180 branches and nearly 150 ATM locations. PRASAC has a microfinance deposit-taking license from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) with operating 25 years in the financial industry in Cambodia. PRASAC dedicates in offering full-fledged financial services such as loans, deposits, EDC bill payment, PPWSA bill payment, digital finance, cash-by-code, fund transfer, foreign exchange, phone top-up, Cambodian shared switch (CSS), fast payment, payroll, automated teller machine (ATM), cash deposit machine (CDM), mobile banking, internet banking, POS, payment services via the Bakong system, bank confirmation and other services to target clients. KB Kookmin Bank is a leading commercial bank in South Korea that has the largest number of branches in the industry and over 30 million customers equivalent to more than half of the nation’s population. The bank also stands as the leader in digital finance service by operating mobile platforms including Liiv and KB Star Banking with more than 15 million customers.

Singapore's logistics Ninja Van raises $124m in Series D round Nikkei Asian Review 9th Apr 2020
Singapore-based last-mile logistics player Ninja Van has raised at least $124 million of new Series D equity capital since April 2019, including a substantial investment from Brunei's sovereign wealth fund, according to data obtained by DealStreetAsia. Ninja Van also issued $89 million of convertible notes for existing investors Geopost SA and B Capital in 2018 and 2019, from which Ninja Van has obtained $52.4 million of equity capital following conversions at Series D pricing. Based on available data, Zamrud, a sovereign wealth fund controlled by Brunei, joined Ninja Van's capitalization table as the largest disclosed investor in the Series D equity round so far, with a $50 million stake. Zamrud's participation in the Series D round marks a rare appearance in the venture deal headlines by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund. It coincides with Ninja Van's plans, disclosed to business news network CNBC in February, to expand into Brunei in 2020. The company already operates in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand. The Brunei Investment Agency could not be reached for comment.

Bond Investors Are Back, Even in Indonesia WSJ 7th Apr 2020
Indonesia sold $4.3 billion of bonds, including one it won’t pay off for 50 years, in the latest sign that investors are regaining their appetite for risk. Just last month, investors were selling assets of all stripes so aggressively that some markets seized up under the stress. Even supersafe U.S. Treasurys were dumped in an attempt to raise cash.


Banks urged to further support COVID-19 affected customers 29th Apr 2020
Governor of the State Bank of Việt Nam Lê Minh Hưng has called on commercial banks to urgently simplify lending procedures to help COVID-19-affected firms easily access preferential interest rate loans. But he said banks must still meet lending standards to ensure the safety and stability of the financial and banking system. Banks needed to determine that support for borrowers was their responsibility to the system and the economy, Hưng said, emphasizing the measures were effective for both the banking system and borrowers. Despite appreciating initial efforts made and results, Hưng asked banks to drastically put in place supporting measures. He stressed that State-owned commercial banks must speed up the process of working with customers to solve problems. Besides corporate customers, the Governor also asked banks to consider restructuring debts for individual customers. The SBV’s Credit and Communications departments must report to him results of the process regularly, he said. To support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, banks have introduced credit packages worth VNĐ285 trillion with low interest rates. However, many businesses claimed they could not access them and proposed that banks ease lending rules.

Coronavirus pandemic will likely end the strong profit growth in Singapore banks CNBC 29th Apr 2020
After a strong run last year, the profitability of Singapore banks is expected to fall sharply in 2020. That's due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a crash in oil prices that brought down some of the major energy traders in the Asian financial center. A glimpse of that earnings hit could come this week as DBS Group Holdings, the largest bank in Singapore and Southeast Asia, is scheduled to release its first-quarter financial report card on Thursday. DBS' earnings release will be followed by United Overseas Bank next Wednesday, and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp next Friday.Estimates by Refinitiv showed that net profit at all three banks could fall by more than 20% in the first quarter, and DBS is expected to take the largest hit of a 32% decline. The banks' earnings reports come as the outlook for Singapore's economy dims following lockdown measures domestically and overseas to contain the virus outbreak. All that has brought much of global economic activity to a standstill.Official preliminary estimates showed that Singapore's economy contracted by 2.2% in the first quarter — and economists predict that the following three months will likely be worse.

JB Financial buys brokerage in VN, eyes SEA market The Phnom Penh Post 23rd Apr 2020
South Korean banking firm JB Financial Group Co Ltd has completed an acquisition of a Vietnam-based brokerage previously owned by global investment bank Morgan Stanley, as part of its effort to make inroads into the Southeast Asian region. JB Financial Group on April 22 said it paid 19.9 billion won ($16 million) for a 100 per cent stake in Morgan Stanley Gateway Securities JSC (MSGS), a midsized brokerage headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam. Founded in 2006, the firm posted some 300 billion dong ($13 million) as capital on operations as of last year. As the new brokerage has become a subsidiary of JB Kwangju Bank based in South Jeolla Province, the financial group’s subsidiaries including grandson companies now increased to seven. The acquisition is expected to strengthen the group’s business foothold in the Southeast Asian region. In 2016, the bank acquired Phnom Penh Commercial Bank Plc of Cambodia through its subsidiary Jeonbuk Bank in North Jeolla province and established JB Capital’s overseas branch in Myanmar. Through its newly acquired firm, JB Financial will also provide domestic investors with investment strategies regarding real estate and infrastructure development in Vietnam. The group also plans to provide the Vietnamese companies with services like arranging corporate bond issuance or M&As.

Singapore FinTech Association, Razer offer fintech firms up to $2.1m financing amid Covid-19 The Straits Times 23rd Apr 2020
The Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) and Razer Fintech have agreed to provide fintech companies in Singapore bridge financing, equity or equity-linked instruments ranging from US$100,000 to US$1.5 million (S$143,000 to S$2.1 million), they said in a joint release on April 23. The final sum depends on the fintech company's stage of growth and business requirements. Financial assistance is one of several measures the partners are rolling out to address key issues faced by local fintech players due to the Covid-19 crisis, including business continuity concerns, high business costs, and funding and employment. Other measures include cash flow and marketing support programs, and support for evaluation and due diligence processes such as certification, screening and reference checks. SFA and Razer said they also hope to "curate best-in-class fintech companies in Singapore through partnerships or investment". Under a US$50 million Covid-19 support fund announced by Razer two weeks ago, the company will invest between US$100,000 and US$1 million per company in selected businesses or partners. It will focus its investments in firms with technologies dedicated to fighting Covid-19 or supporting people through the pandemic, such as companies in the autonomous food and beverage, delivery and logistics, and healthcare sectors, it said. Under its fund, Razer Fintech's business-to-business payment service, Razer Merchant Services, is also waiving one year of annual fees for both online and offline merchants in South-east Asia, offering special rates for offline payments, reducing sign-up fees to zero, and giving them US$10,000 in marketing funds each. Meanwhile, Razer Fintech's business-to-consumer payment service, Razer Pay, is offering South-east Asian merchants US$10,000 in marketing funds each and reducing its merchant discount rate to zero for up to six months.

UOB Malaysia shutters eight branches in response to Covid-19 outbreak Retail Banker International 21st Apr 2020
United Overseas Bank Malaysia (UOB Malaysia) has temporarily shut down eight out of its total 45 branches across the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). These eight branches are located in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Pahang, and Sabah, The Edge has reported. The move is aligned with the bank’s strategy to balance essential banking services with ensuring the well-being of its customers and staff. The branches will remain closed until the movement control order (MCO) period imposed by the federal government of Malaysia ends, the report added. Despite the branch closures, customers can continue to manage their cash needs using the bank’s ATMs and cash, cheque and coin deposit machines from 8 am to 8 pm daily. The bank has urged its customers to use its digital banking channels such as UOB Personal Internet Banking, UOB Business Internet Banking Plus and the UOB Mighty mobile app.

Indonesia’s loan growth to slump to 4% amid pandemic: Economist The Jakarta Post 20th Apr 2020
Indonesia’s banking industry is expected to see a drop in loan growth to around 4 percent this year as the COVID-19 pandemic batters the economy, an economist has said. Senior economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF), Aviliani, said Indonesian banks had become hesitant to provide loans to new debtors, as both the national and global economy had been disrupted by COVID-19. “I think loan growth will be around 4 percent and new loan disbursement will begin to return to normal in March 2021. The banks are hesitant to channel loans as demand will remain low until December,” she said during an online discussion. The country’s banking industry recorded 5.93 percent loan growth in February, the lowest expansion since November 2009, according to Financial Services Authority (OJK) data. The figure is lower than the 6.1 percent booked in January. The non-performing loan (NPL) rate jumped to nearly 2.8 percent, the highest since May last year. The OJK and Bank Indonesia (BI) previously set a loan growth target of around 11 percent this year. The central bank recently slashed its projection to between 6 and 8 percent.

Techcombank offers US$1.27 billion package to support customers Vietnam News 16th Apr 2020
Techcombank has announced a comprehensive support package worth VNĐ30 trillion (US$1.27 billion) for both individual and enterprise customers that are heavily impacted due to COVID-19. Vishal Shah, Head of Business Banking Division at Techcombank talked more about the package. The support package includes interest reduction, introduction of preferential interest rates as well as debt rescheduling at suitable terms thereby helping our customers mitigate the negative impact on account of COVID-19. The support package is comprehensive with VNĐ10 trillion allocated for individual customers and VNĐ20 trillion for our enterprise customers. The package is available for customers that meet the conditions prescribed in Circular 01/2020/TT-NHNN. In addition, Techcombank will consider reduction in lending rates for customers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak by up to 2 per cent per annum.

Thailand's Kasikornbank to expand digital presence in Myanmar The Myanmar Times 16th Apr 2020
The Central Bank of Myanmar on April 9 approved the Thai bank’s acquisition of a 35 percent stake in Ayeyarwaddy Farmers Development Bank (A Bank), making it the first foreign commercial bank to take a stake in a local lender. A Bank is the second Myanmar bank to welcome foreign shareholders. Kasikornbank said in a statement it would acquire its stake in A Bank through its Kasikorn Vision subsidiary, which has a budget of K690 billion ($428 million) for overseas commercial opportunities. That stake has been reported to be worth $40 million.  Myanmar’s digital banking market has attracted foreign interest in recent years, following the surge in smartphone penetration in the Southeast Asian country. The coronavirus outbreak has further boosted the prospects of e-commerce and digital banking as more are forced to stay at home. 

SCB gets tentative nod for Myanmar licence Bangkok Post 16th Apr 2020
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the country's fourth-largest lender by assets, has won preliminary approval for a subsidiary business license in Myanmar, targeting 7 billion baht in loans in the first five years of operation. The bank expects to set up the subsidiary and begin operations by the end of 2020, said chairman and chief executive Arthid Nanthawithaya. The license enables the bank to open a subsidiary bank 100%-owned by SCB and provide the same comprehensive commercial banking services as branches in Thailand. A subsidiary licence allows branches in 10 major business areas. SCB has had a representative office in Myanmar since 2012. In the initial phase, SCB will focus on catering to Thai corporate clients with existing investments in Myanmar and others who want to explore trade and investment there.

Myanmar allows Korean and Thai banks' entry to boost investment Nikkei Asian Review 16th Apr 2020
Seven banks from around Asia are to enter Myanmar, raising the prospect that a more active presence by foreign lenders will encourage further inward investment from other industries. The banks' entry was approved late last week by the Central Bank of Myanmar and are part of efforts to open up the banking industry by the administration led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. They are expected to start Myanmar operations by early 2021 after a licensing procedure. One of the banks, Siam Commercial Bank, a top-three bank in Thailand, said it would initially focus on Thai corporate clients with investments in the country "and others who want to expand their trade and investment in Myanmar." Arthid Nanthawithaya, CEO and chairman of the executive committee, said in a statement: "We are ready to serve clients with a full range of financial solutions like loans, foreign exchange, trade finance, supply chain management and cash management." The other banks are South Korea's Industrial Bank of Korea, KB Kookmin Bank and Korea Development Bank; Taiwan's Cathay United Bank and Mega International Commercial Bank; and Bank of China Hong Kong, a leading Hong Kong lender affiliated with Chinese government-owned Bank of China. Currently, 13 foreign banks operate branches in Myanmar. They include Japan's megabanks. With the additions the developing Southeast Asian country is set to have 20 foreign banks operating within the next 9 months. Myanmar's government has relaxed regulations on foreign financial companies in phases since 2018.

Myanmar opens up to seven more Asian banks The Myanmar Times 9th Apr 2020
Myanmar has granted operating licenses to seven Asian banks, bringing to 20 the number of foreign banks allowed to do business in the previously isolated market. Bank of China (Hong Kong), Taiwan’s Cathay United Bank and Mega International Commercial Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea, Seoul-based KB Koomin Bank, Korea Development Bank and Siam Commercial Bank of Thailand were granted preliminary licenses, the central bank’s licensing committee said in a statement on Friday (April 9).

COVID-19 batters Indonesia’s loan growth to record low The Jakarta Post 6th Apr 2020
Indonesia’s loan growth fell to a more than 10-year low in February as a cooling economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic hit credit demand across business sectors. The country’s banking industry recorded a 5.93 percent loan growth in this year’s second month, the lowest expansion since November 2009, according to Financial Services Authority (OJK) data. The figure is lower than 6.1 percent booked in January. Non-performing loans (NPL) jumped to nearly 2.8 percent, the highest since May last year. “The slow loan growth was caused by weak demand in line with the economic cycle, which has been slowing since 2019’s fourth quarter,” said Bank Permata economist Josua Pardede on April 2. The government projects Indonesia’s economy to grow 2.3 percent this year under the baseline scenario, which would be the lowest rate since 1999, or contract by 0.4 percent in the worst-case scenario as the pandemic batters activity. Josua said the pandemic had significantly hit six sectors, namely the transportation, warehousing and communication sector, the accommodation, food and beverage sector, wholesale and retail trade, the agriculture, plantation and forestry sector, the mining sector and the processing industry sector. He projected Indonesia’s loan growth to reach between 4 and 6 percent this year compared to 6.08 percent in 2019. The OJK and Bank Indonesia previously set a loan growth target of around 11 percent this year. The central bank recently slashed its projection to between 6 and 8 percent.

Moody’s downgrades Malaysia banking system outlook to negative The Star Online 2nd Apr 2020
Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Malaysia’s banking system to negative from stable to reflect growing risks from coronavirus outbreak. “Asset risks for banks will increase while their profitability will decline amid deteriorating economic conditions in the next 12-18 months. Still, robust loan-loss reserves and capitalization will provide a buffer against growing risks,” Moody’s said in a statement on April 2. The rating agency has also changed its outlook on 12 Asia Pacific banking systems to negative in light of the coronavirus outbreak and broad economic deterioration. Moody’s said Malaysia is facing slowing regional growth and trade, while the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns that have been in place since mid-March are materially disrupting economic activity. It said this would hurt the country's electronics exports and tourism in particular. In addition, political uncertainty will weigh on business and investor sentiment.

Banks support enterprises 2nd Apr 2020
Incomplete statistics show that businesses have enjoyed cuts of at least VNĐ100 trillion (US$4.25 billion) to support them amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV)’s deputy governor Đào Minh Tú said amid the complex situation of COVID-19, the banking industry should implement measures to support enterprises. These include debt restructuring, debt postponement and extension, as well as interest rate reductions on old and new loans.

Banks asked to cut lending rates to mitigate Covid 19 pandemic 1st Apr 2020
Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Việt Nam (SBV) Đào Minh Tú has instructed commercial banks to continue reducing lending rates for firms affected by COVID-19 by 2 percentage points per year. The banking industry played an important role in the economy so these solutions would have direct impacts, Tú said during an online meeting on Tuesday. Tú also directed banks to implement support measures such as debt rescheduling to help firms maintain production and business.

Insolvency Dept offers six-month moratorium for bankrupt Malaysians Free Malaysia Today 1st Apr 2020
The Insolvency Department is offering a six-month moratorium on monthly payments of bankrupt Malaysians to assist them during the current economic situation due to the Covid-19 crisis. The moratorium will last until Sept 30. Those who do not wish to take up the offer may continue their monthly payments to their relevant department branches. It also decided to allow bankrupt individuals under the age of 55 to withdraw up to RM500 a month from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) account for 12 months. This comes after Putrajaya allowed contributors to make withdrawals from their EPF Account 2 for up to 12 months, with a maximum of RM500 per month. Individuals who have signed an agreement with the department’s director-general or liquidation officer for the acquisition of any of their assets can also request for a six-month suspension.


V Capital teams up with Cross River Bank, eyes digital banking licence in Malaysia DealStreetAsia 29th Apr 2020
Malaysia-based advisory firm V Capital Investments Ltd has teamed up with US-based fintech solution provider Cross River Bank to work towards applying for a digital bank license in Malaysia. Following the 2018 round of financing led by KKR with the participation of Battery Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Ribbit Capital & Credit Ease; Shefa Capital has partnered with V Capital to lead the Series C pre-IPO US$100 million investment in Cross River Bank which is slated for an IPO in the US next year. Through this round of investment in Cross River Bank, V Capital has also become its strategic partner in the Southeast Asia region. Bank Negara Malaysia has in March issued an updated exposure draft on the Licensing Framework for Digital Banks that incorporates a proposed simplified regulatory framework applicable during the foundational phase for such banks. Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the central bank has extended the consultation period for the exposure draft from April 30 to June 30, 2020. Applications for new licenses will be open upon issuance of the policy document, the regulator said. Quoting sources, Reuters reported in January that ride-hailing group Grab, gaming firm Razer, low-cost carrier AirAsia, telecom firm Axiata and lender CIMB are among those looking to apply for digital banking licenses in Malaysia. Late last year, the central bank had said that up to five such licenses may be issued to qualified applicants.

NetX inks deal to deploy forex platform with in-built e-wallet in Australia The Edge Markets 29th Apr 2020
NetX Holdings Bhd, whose shares were the most actively traded on Bursa Malaysia on April 29, is teaming up with Australian financial services provider Finexia Securities Ltd to introduce, promote and operate a point-to-point currency exchange digital platform that NetX developed, which comes with an in-built e-wallet function, in Australia. The group's wholly-owned E-FX Sdn Bhd has inked a two-year collaboration agreement with Finexia Securities for the collaboration, according to NetX in a stock exchange filing. Under the agreement that commences today, Finexia Securities will have the exclusive right to use and operate the E-FX platform in Australia. In return, it will have to generate a minimum revenue of A$4 million (some RM11.32 million) over the next two years, A$1 million in the first year and A$3 million in the second year. Any profits generated from the spread of forex, remittance, investment and balance floats of the E-FX platform will be split on a 50-50 basis between E-FX and Finexia Securities.

E-money to keep growth; P700-billion inflow seen by 2021 BusinessMirror 28th Apr 2020
E-MONEY is seen to continue flourishing in the Philippines, with transaction volume and wallet inflow reaching P370 billion and P700 billion by 2021, respectively, according to a strategic advisory firm. YCP Solidiance, in its report titled “The Digitization of the Philippine Wallet: E-Money’s Emergence in the Philippines,” said that growth in e-wallet usage will be supported by service offerings of financial technology players and banks, such as bills and merchant payment capabilities. Citing data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), YCP noted that e-money had an 8-percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in amount flows and 15 percent in amount usage during 2014-2018. Usage, in terms of transaction count, had 36-percent CAGR during the same period. The advisory firm said that bulk, or 81 percent of the e-money inflows, came from universal and commercial banks, registering P443.26 billion in 2018. This was 8.12 percent higher than the P407.25 billion notched the previous year. It had a CAGR of 9 percent in 2014-2018. This was followed by e-money issuers, comprising 16 percent or P89.29 billion of the total e-money inflows in 2018. It recorded 11-percent CAGR within a five-year period beginning 2014.

Penang public markets to use e-wallet payment by June Malay Mail 26th Apr 2020
The Penang government in Malaysia aims to fully adopt the e-wallet transaction system in every public market in the state by June this year. State Housing, Local Government, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the state government has received positive feedback from public market traders on e-wallet usage. He added that Penang has 26 public markets under MBPP and 30 public markets under MBSP. Meanwhile, Jagdeep, who is also the Datuk Keramat assemblyman, said as of April 25, a total of 219,536 premises had been inspected throughout Penang during the movement control order (MCO) period. He said the MCO compliance rate recorded by MBPP and MBSP stood at 99.45 per cent and 99.32 per cent respectively.

PH e-payments goal gets boost during ECQ Philippine News Agency 23rd Apr 2020
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) program to encourage people to use digital payment platforms got a boost during the ongoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in most parts of the country. Data from the central bank showed that transactions using PESONet and InstaPay visibly increased compared before the ECQ due to restrictions in movement of people outside of their houses. InstaPay and PESONet are real-time electronic payment systems under the National Retail Payment System (NRPS).  These e-payment options are posting bigger jumps since the ECQ was declared over mainland Luzon last March 16.Facebook in talks with Indonesia's e-payment companies for tie-up The Straits Times 15th Apr 2020

Facebook is fighting to get a slice of the pie in Indonesia's booming e-payment business, whose revenue is expected to grow nine-fold in the next five years in the country of 270 million people. It has approached existing digital payment companies to tie-up with and compete with major rivals including local players SoftBank-backed OVO and rival GoPay, owned by Jakarta-based ride hailing firm Gojek and backed by among others Google and China's Tencent. OVO is an affiliate of Grab, Gojek's closest rival in Indonesia. Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has 41 companies that have an e-wallet license from Bank Indonesia. Facebook declined to disclose which of these it has approached to tie up with, but it stressed that it is keen to grow its digital payment business worldwide. The current top two players OVO and GoPay are closely rivalled by third largest player, Dana, which relies on transactions from its affiliated e-commerce Bukalapak. Dana is backed by Ant Financial, formerly known as Alipay, which is an affiliate of China's Alibaba. Placing a distant fourth is LinkAja, owned by various Indonesian state-controlled companies ranging from Bank Mandiri, the country's largest telco Telkomsel, to state oil and gas company Pertamina, which operates the majority of the country's fuel stations. Facebook announced its new payment platform on Nov 12, 2019, saying it would offer the service across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

More people go cashless, e-payment volume soars amid Covid-19 crisis The Straits Times 15th Apr 2020
The Covid-19 outbreak has drastically accelerated Singapore's shift to a cashless world, with unprecedented growth in the number of e-payment transactions matched by a sharp decrease in cash withdrawals and deposits. Singapore's largest bank DBS said that the volume of cashless transactions nearly doubled in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, the volume of cash withdrawals and deposits by its customers fell by an unprecedented 11 per cent during the three months compared with the year-ago period. The rate of decline in cash transactions has always hovered at 5 per cent yearly since 2017. "The Covid-19 crisis has been difficult for everyone but one positive is that it has served as a catalyst for change (to cashless), with consumers now having to adapt to not being able to go out," said DBS head of consumer banking group (Singapore) Jeremy Soo. "In the first three months of the year, we have seen 100,000 customers start online spending for the first time. These are people who have realised there's another way to do it if they want to avoid a lot of inconvenience. UOB group retail head of mobile and digital Aaron Chiew said online grocery shopping using its cards grew by 44 per cent in the first three months of this year compared with the same period a year ago. Similarly, online food orders and e-commerce transaction volume grew yearly by 41 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively, during the same period, he added. For OCBC, customer spending increased by up to 50 per cent on food deliveries as well as on online video and music streaming subscription services such as Netflix and Spotify.

LinkAja launches Indonesia's first sharia e-wallet, backed by 1,000 mosques The Jakarta Post 15th Apr 2020
Electronic payment platform LinkAja has officially launched Indonesia’s first sharia-compliant e-wallet payment app, which provides Islamic financial services and manages customers' balances in accordance with Islamic law. LinkAja has forged cooperation with around 1,000 mosques and 242 zakat and waqf agencies to expand the use of the cashless app to a wide customer base, the platform’s sharia service division head Widjajanto Djaenudin said. Through the sharia feature, customers’ funds are deposited at state-owned sharia banks, which include Bank Negara Indonesia Sharia, Bank Mandiri Sharia and Bank Rakyat Indonesia Sharia, to avoid interest charges, regarded as usury in Islamic law. LinkAja, which has more than 40 million users and 500,000 merchants nationwide as of Tuesday, is aiming to attract 1 million users to its sharia feature in 2020 and to help develop Indonesia’s sharia digital economy ecosystem, LinkAja’s COO Haryati Lawidjaja said. LinkAja also aims to expand its sharia feature to other Muslim majority countries once it has dominated the local market, Finarya’s president commissioner Heri Supriadi said.

Mobile money project to be submitted to the Government this month 15th Apr 2020
The State Bank of Việt Nam is completing a mobile money pilot project and will submit it to the Government for approval this month, Governor Lê Minh Hưng has said. The pilot project will allow mobile subscribers to use their telecommunication accounts to pay for goods and services up to a limited value. Telecommunications providers like VNPT, Viettel and MobiFone will join in the payment market.

Singtel's NCS Partners NETS to Develop New e-Payment Platform for Central Banks in Asia Pacific Fintech Singapore 14th Apr 2020
On April 14, NCS signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) Group to develop a new real-time Electronic Payment and Securities Settlement Platform for central banks. The collaboration brings together NCS’ capabilities in building highly secure, digital and complex government applications and infrastructure, and NETS’ experience as a national payments provider and innovator in cross-border payments. The strategic collaboration between NCS and NETS covers joint research and development of a new generation central bank real-time Electronic Payment and Securities Settlement Platform that is secure, resilient and robust by design to allow interoperability with current and future payment systems and facilitate high value inter-bank fund transfers. This will enhance the way central banks deliver monetary policies and critical market infrastructure to support financial stability, benefitting banks and new participants in the payment ecosystem. The partnership also involves the joint development of a next-generation suite of central banking products, customizable to the regulatory needs of different financial markets, thereby enabling both companies to expand into South East Asia, Hong Kong and China.

MCO: CIMB says Touch 'n Go eWallet continues to see healthy volumes for essential services, online-based transactions The Edge Markets 10th Apr 2020
CIMB Group Holdings Bhd said Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO) to curb the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced retail transaction volumes across the industry and that the group’s Touch 'n Go eWallet is experiencing the same trend involving a decline in usage where offline retail merchants are concerned. CIMB wholly-owns Touch 'n Go Sdn Bhd (TNGSB). CIMB's group ventures & partnerships chief executive officer (CEO) Effendy Shahul Hamid said in an emailed reply to queries from that the Touch 'n Go eWallet which is a joint venture between TNG Digital Sdn Bhd and Ant Financial, however, continues to see healthy volumes for essential services and online-based transactions. In CIMB’s latest annual report, which was filed with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, former group CEO Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz claimed Touch 'n Go eWallet is Malaysia’s largest e-wallet with over 6.8 million registered users and 120,000 merchants by the end of 2019. Zafrul had recently relinquished his position in CIMB to join the Malaysian government as Finance Minister. The Touch 'n Go eWallet’s rivals include GrabPay and Boost.

Ha Noi promotes cashless payment, e-commerce Việt Nam News 7th Apr 2020
Under a plan recently issued by the municipal People’s Committee, the capital city targets that 90 per cent of modern retailers and water, electricity and telecommunications services providers together with 25 per cent of petrol stations would accept cashless payments by the end of this year. The move aims to strengthen online shopping to gradually change consumers’ shopping habit from traditional to modern channels. The capital city will also encourage the application of e-commerce in business and start-ups, with a focus on improving the logistics system to boost e-commerce development.

Touch 'n Go eWallet provides QR scan facility for direct donations to local NGOs The Edge Markets 6th Apr 2020
Touch ‘n Go eWallet is providing a QR scan facility to enable the public to donate directly to local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during the movement control order (MCO) period, to aid underprivileged communities. Proceeds are channelled directly to NGOs, such as Kechara Soup Kitchen, Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation and Yayasan Generasi Gemilang, enabling them to better serve the needs of the homeless, vulnerable and low-income families in a shorter time frame sans the administrative paperwork. Meanwhile, Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, patron of Make-A-Wish Malaysia, a volunteer and founder of #zerofoodwastage Kechara Soup Kitchen, said: "Charities such as Make-A-Wish Malaysia and Kechara Soup Kitchen having a QR code such as the one provided by Touch ‘n Go eWallet is very helpful.” Yayasan Generasi Gemilang CEO Melissa Ngiam said the facility allows the foundation to expand its channels to receive public donations that are vital to support the work of increasing access to quality education. "During this time of the MCO, funds received also allow us to provide food and urgent aid for low-income families," Ngiam said.

Electronic fund transfer fees to be cut by at least 50 per cent 6th Apr 2020
The State Bank of Việt Nam on Tuesday issued a directive to reduce the fees for transactions via interbank electronic payment system by 50 per cent for local banks. The reduction took effect from today to the end of this year, aiming to support production and business to overcome difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage cashless payments. Under the Circular 04/2020/TT-NHNN, the central bank asked credit institutions and branches of foreign banks in Việt Nam to review their payment services fees to cut the fees on customers.

Online shopping surges on Vietnam social distancing campaign VnExpress International 5th Apr 2020
Amid the 15-day nationwide social distancing campaign, people in Vietnam are increasingly resorting to online shopping and home delivery. A recent survey by Nielsen Vietnam and Infocus Mekong Mobile Panel found that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on Vietnamese consumer trends. People have reduced the frequency of their visits to supermarkets and grocery stores by 50 percent and to traditional and fresh food markets by more than 60 percent, it found. The country began a 15-day social distancing campaign to contain the pandemic last Wednesday, with the government saying it is a critical period, and banning gatherings of more than two people and telling people not to leave their homes.

Azimo forms partnership with one of Thailand’s leading universal banks SCB to make transfers faster and cheaper The Fintech Times 3rd Apr 2020
 Global money transfer service Azimo  announced a partnership with Siam Commercial bank (SCB), one of Thailand’s leading universal banks. Under the terms of the agreement, Azimo will deliver payments instantly for its customers from Europe to SCB bank accounts in Thailand. The new service takes advantage of PromptPay, which comprises a real-time clearing and settlement infrastructure that enables instant transfers to Thai bank accounts. According to the World Bank, Thailand is one of the top remittance destinations globally, with $6.7 billion received from abroad each year. It is also one of the most expensive countries to send and receive money. SCB is currently transforming cross-border payments in Thailand and across south-east Asia by working with fintech companies like Azimo to offer better services for millions of customers. The new service also uses RippleNet, a global payment network that harnesses the power of blockchain to enable users to track funds, delivery time, and status. Azimo’s digital money transfer platform is used by more than a million customers, who can send money from 25 countries to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The volume of transfers it enabled increased by 60 percent year on year during 2019. Azimo recently received €20m in financing from the European Investment Bank.

Cambodia records large spike in mobile business and e-learning application downloads Khmer Times 2nd Apr 2020
Mobile applications for remote business and e-learning tools recorded their largest spike in downloads on the Cambodian market last month for both the Android’s Google Play and Apple’s App Store platforms, according to monthly data sets released by the online research website SimilarWeb. The increase was attributed to the Cambodian Government’s closure of all educational institutions amid advice from private and public sector offices to implement work-from-home policies, to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. Mobile applications are becoming an ever-increasing driving force for e-commerce in Cambodia, with the Kingdom recording over 25 million mobile subscriptions (representing 1.5 for each person in the country) with 76 percent of the country now having access to the internet, according to Global Web Index 2019 figures.

Digital payments nearly double in March amid virus outbreak Bangkok Post 1st Apr 2020
Thailand's digital payments jumped 93% in March from a year earlier, the central bank said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak pushes up demand for online services. The number of transactions made via the PromptPay platform averaged about 11 million per day in March, up from 5.7 million per day in the same period last year, the central bank said. The highest daily transactions were 15 million on March 31, it said. Thailand has recorded 1,771 cases of the coronavirus and 12 deaths. A state of emergency was enforced on March 26, and people have been asked to stay home to limit the spread of the virus.


Philippines' Insurance Commission to fall under central bank's rule InternationalInvestment 30th Apr 2020
Two separate bills have been filed at the Philippine legislature's lower house seeking to restructure the Insurance Commission and place it under the jurisdiction of the central bank Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). If either bill is passed, it would make the BSP a "super regulator" similar to regional neighbors Monetary Authority of Singapore and Bank Negara Malaysia, according to a report by the Manila Bulletin. At the moment, the BSP jurisdiction is limited to banks and non-banks with quasi banking functions. However, the amended charter gives them additional supervision powers to other financial institutions such as money service businesses, credit granting businesses and payment system operators. Currently, the Insurance Commission is under the Department of Finance. Under the proposed changes, while the Insurance Commission as a BSP unit may issue rulings, circulars, orders, and instructions, all decisions "except otherwise specified" that were made by the insurance regulator "shall be appealable to the governor of the BSP." The BSP governor like IC officials, are all appointed by the country's president. Representative Sharon Garin, the author of one of the bills, said that her proposal also seeks to transform the Insurance Commission into a collegial body, similar to the BSP, which has a monetary board composed of seven members. Currently, the Insurance Commission is headed by a single commissioner, Dennis Funa. The Insurance Commission is facing opposition from life insurers who area against proposed legislation that will split the regulation of variable unit linked (VUL) products, or policies that offer permanent life insurance with built-in savings component and investment of their cash value.

AIA Cambodia Launches an Innovative Way of Working to Serve Customers Despite COVID-19 Disruption Khmer Times 28th Apr 2020
On April 28, AIA (Cambodia) Life Insurance Plc (“AIA Cambodia”) announced the launch of an innovative virtual sales and business development process to ensure both existing and new customers can access insurance solutions and protection advice despite social distancing measures currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virtual Face-to-Face (“VFTF”) way of working is the first fully digitalized sales process to be implemented in Cambodia’s insurance industry and follows a wider trend at AIA Cambodia of utilising cutting-edge digital tools and processes for the convenience of customers, AIA Life Planners, partners and employees. The VFTF workflow has been launched in response to the Ministry of Health’s recent social distancing measures and to ensure clients can continue to take up AIA policies but in a safe, convenient setting. Clients can communicate with AIA Life Planners via video call using a digital messaging app of their choice, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Line, etc. With the use of digital tools and technology, meetings with customers can be conducted virtually, allowing them to receive services and advice, and completion of purchase without leaving the comfort of their homes. The technology also enables the entire insurance sales process to be facilitated with live video streaming while documents verification and sales confirmation can be completed electronically. Going forward, the VFTF will become a core part of AIA Cambodia’s recruitment and training processes to ensure the company’s employees and AIA Life Planners can remain agile and access the latest technologies to succeed in their jobs. AIA Cambodia, which is part of AIA, the largest publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group will continue to play a leadership role in supporting the economy and social development of Cambodia. .

AXA Asia expands telehealth rollout during COVID-19 pandemic MobiHealthNews 22nd Apr 2020
AXA Asia, which is part of global insurer AXA, has announced it will be offering free teleconsultations to approximately 6.5 million people in Asia, including under-served patients in remote, rural areas, with limited healthcare access. AXA plans to extend these services further, including in South East Asia. Through a strategic alliance with Tencent Trusted Doctors, the largest online medical service provider in China, AXA provides 24/7 access to tele-consultations through a dedicated hotline for AXA customers and employees seeking advice and support. The online platform is supported by 450,000 professional medical doctors and psychologists. A dedicated Mental Wellness Helpline via chat and video on WeChat will also go live in May, providing additional support as society begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic.   Halodoc, AXA’s Indonesian telehealth partner, has seen usage skyrocket over the past month. With a lack of medical staff and protective equipment, and less than 4,000 hospital beds for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, Indonesia’s 270 million people need telehealth more than ever. The government’s virus task force said on 27 March it would add links on its website to 20 telehealth services and create a digital call center to direct traffic. Halodoc, which has 12 million monthly users, also offers medicine delivery through partnerships with pharmacies, laboratories and ride-hailers. AXA has made a free teleconsultation program available to more than 2.6 million existing customers, as well as new customers, for a limited time period in Indonesia. AXA Philippines has extended free medical teleconsultation services to all life insurance customers, as well as select general insurance clients, reaching 750,000 customers with its partner MyPocketDoctor. In Japan, 24/7 health and medical consultation call services “T-PEC” and online services “DoctorsMe” are currently available free of charge to all policyholders, insured persons and their family members. These services provide consultations by healthcare specialists including physicians and nurses about COVID-19. In Thailand, Krungthai-AXA Life offers telemedicine to policyholders currently using services through its partners BDMS network hospitals and Praram 9 Hospital.

RHB Insurance offers relieve to policyholders affected by Covid-19 NST Online 20th Apr 2020
RHB Insurance Bhd in Malaysia (RHB Insurance) is providing relief to individual and SME policyholders affected by Covid-19 to ensure customers facing temporary financial difficulties continue to receive insurance protection, through its Premium Installment Scheme and Premium Relief Scheme. Under Premium Installment Scheme, both existing and new policyholders under RHB Insurance who are affected by Covid-19 may apply to pay their insurance premiums, excluding motor insurance, in installments for up to six months. This scheme is applicable for policies with due dates from 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 and allows eligible policyholders, including SMEs, the flexibility to restructure their payments in three monthly installments or six monthly installments, without affecting their policy coverage. Additionally, SME customers with insurance policy inception dates of between 1 March, 2020 to 31 December, 2020 can apply for additional relief in the form of premium discounts under the Premium Relief Scheme. This Premium Relief Scheme is the first in Malaysia that allows discounts on premiums for SME policyholders who face temporary financial constraints arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysian insurer put up for sale again Business Insurance 16th Apr 2020
Kuala Lumpur-listed AMMB Holdings and Insurance Australia Group have restarted a sale process for AmGeneral Insurance, Malaysia's second-biggest auto insurer, and are seeking as much as $1bn for the company, reported Bloomberg quoting people with knowledge of the matter said. They invite interested parties suitors to submit non-binding bids for the Malaysian insurer by the end of this month, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the information is private. AMMB controls 51% of AmGeneral, while IAG owns the remaining balance. AMMB and IAG explored the disposal of AmGeneral in 2017 and shortlisted Allianz Malaysia last year, Bloomberg previously reported. But the deal fell through after failing to get approval from Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s central bank, one of the people said. The central bank declined to comment on the matter. The owners began a new sale process in recent weeks, the person said. Details of the potential deal could change, and AmGeneral’s owners could decide to hold on to their stakes, the people said. A representative for AmGeneral and AMMB declined to comment. A representative for IAG said the company’s focus is on its core Australian and New Zealand businesses, and is exploring options for its remaining Asian general insurance interests, including divestments when appropriate.

Insurance can be sold online in Philippines despite quarantine ITIJ 16th Apr 2020
Enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was declared on the Philippines’ most populous island Luzon – which also happens to be the country’s economic and political hub – in March, and is currently projected to last until at least the end of April. But Dennis Funa, the Filipino Insurance Commissioner, has said that non-life insurers may make use of online avenues to sell coverage during that time. As the regulator pointed out, people still need insurance, and it is important to make it available while also ensuring that consumers are kept safe during the quarantine. The regulator has also pointed out that the safety of insurance agents and company employees needs to be kept in mind, so that business continuity can be maintained in as controlled and hygienic a fashion as possible. “Insurance companies may, during the ECQ period, use information and communications technology in their sales processes without the need of prior approval from the Insurance Commission,” said Funa. “[This technology] may include teleconferencing, video conferencing, computer conferencing or audio conferencing.” Insurers will still need to register their activity with the Commission, Funa added, in order to ensure compliance and to aid in monitoring efforts.

COVID-19 exposes flaws in Indonesia’s health insurance program The Jakarta Post 8th Apr 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed major flaws in Indonesia’s creaking national health insurance program, which has not been able to properly provide services in these desperate times. With an infectious disease spreading fast across the archipelago, the government has been forced to devise a workaround to ensure that the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan), which administers the government’s National Health Insurance (JKN) program, can reassure the public of its role in the pandemic despite coming up against legal barriers. Article 52 of Government Regulation (PP) No. 82/2018 on health insurance stipulates that healthcare services are excluded from BPJS Kesehatan’s premium benefits at a time of emergency and extraordinary circumstances (KLB). With the regulation barring the use of JKN funds to treat COVID-19 patients, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy has instructed BPJS Kesehatan to verify claims of medical bills from hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients and coordinate with the Health Ministry to process the payment of the bills, according to a March 27 letter to BPJS Kesehatan, a copy of which has been obtained by The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules For Insurance Companies - Corporate/Commercial Law - Indonesia Mondaq 7th Apr 2020
With the issuance of GR 3, the Government has relaxed the foreign ownership cap for insurance-related companies. Previously, under GR 14, foreign shareholder(s) could subscribe newly issued shares only up to 80%, since 20% was statutorily allocated to Indonesian individuals and/or Indonesian business entities and/or offered through public offering. Thus, a foreign shareholder in an insurance company that had its share ownership of more than 80% grandfathered under GR 14 would experience a decrease in ownership if the company increased its capital. GR 3 allows a foreign shareholder to maintain its shareholding percentage if the shareholder already owns more than 80% of shares. The remaining unsubscribed shares must be subscribed by Indonesian individuals and/or Indonesian business entities. If no Indonesian individuals and/or Indonesian business entities subscribe the newly issued shares, the capital increase shall be conducted through the initial public offering process. Thus, a foreign shareholder with more than 80% ownership in an insurance-related company will not experience an erosion of their ownership percentage if the company increases its capital. Insurance companies that fail to comply with the provisions of GR 3 are subject to sanctions in the form of: written warning; limitation of business activity, either partially or wholly; revocation of business license; and/or administrative fine.

Digi offers free Covid-19 insurance coverage to first 200,000 customers Malay Mail 6th Apr 2020
Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) in Malaysia is offering free Covid Cover insurance plan to the first 200,000 customers. In a statement on April 6, Digi said Covid Cover offers comprehensive short-term coverage to customers who may require hospitalization and treatment during the COVID-19 crisis.  “Underwritten by Gibraltar BSN, Covid Cover is a fully digital-enabled insurance plan opened to Malaysians aged between 18 and 60.  Interested customers can easily sign up for the coverage without undergoing any form of medical examinations,” it said. The free Covid Cover plan provides customers with a 30-day coverage from the day it is approved.  “The coverage includes a Hospital Cash benefit of RM60 a day for hospitalisation due to Covid-19 and a death benefit of RM20,000,” it said, adding that the offer is opened until April 30, 2020, or until all the 200,000 free plans have been fully redeemed. 

Thai Insurer Gets Surprise Share Price Surge From Virus Coverage Bloomberg 3rd Apr 2020
The founder of one of the world’s best-performing insurance firms this year never imagined its policies to cover illness from the coronavirus would draw “overwhelming” demand when it began selling them well before the pathogen spread across Thailand and the world. Since it began selling policies in February, TQM Corp. -- together with insurance partners that include Bangkok Insurance Pcl and Dhipaya Insurance Pcl -- has sold more than 1 million plans for infection by the virus, company President Unchalin Punnipa said Thursday. Policies cost between 439 baht ($13.31) and 1,250 baht for one-year coverage of as much as 1 million baht for medical treatment and compensation if holders contract the disease, according to the company’s website. The plans were designed to ease “the public’s deep fears” rather than giving TQM a significant revenue boost, Unchalin said back in February, shortly after initial marketing of the policies. But after the health situation changed, and the novel coronavirus crisis spread through Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, the company is now selling about 4,000 policies a day, mostly via online channels. The peak was 50,000 per day at one point in March, Unchalin said Thursday. TQM shares have more than doubled in the past year, even after taking an initial hit as the outbreak spread from China to other countries, including Thailand, in early 2020. They have far outperformed Thailand’s benchmark SET Index and the MSCI World Insurance Index, both of which have dropped in the past 12 months. The stock’s total return in the period was the largest among the world’s insurers and insurance-service companies with a market value of at least $500 million, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Ministry of Finance asks insurers not to sell COVID-19-related products 1st Apr 2020
The Ministry of Finance has asked insurers to stop introducing and selling insurance packages related to COVID-19. This request, issued late on March 31, includes life and non-life insurance in compliance with the Prime Minister’s Directive No 16/CT-TTg on urgent measures to prevent and fight the disease. The directive “requests insurance businesses not to introduce or launch products related to COVID-19”, the ministry said, and asked firms to strictly adhere to the directive throughout their networks, while refraining from the use of images of COVID-19 to offer insurance packages.

Market Regulation

Myanmar Central Bank Cuts Rates by Another 1.5 Percentage Points Amid COVID-19 Slowdown The Irrawaddy 28th Apr 2020
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has cut its key interest rates by a further 1.5 percentage points as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the country’s economy. This is the third time the CBM has reduced rates since it announced a 0.5 percentage point cut on March 12, followed by a further 1 percentage point reduction on March 24. In total, the bank has cut the rates by 3 percentage points in less than two months. CBM Governor U Soe Min told The Irrawaddy that the reduction is aimed at encouraging low-interest loans to businesses in order to facilitate an economic recovery. According to the bank’s directive, the minimum bank deposit rate will be lowered from 6.5 percent to 5 percent, while the maximum lending rate will be lowered from 11.5 to 10 percent for collateralized loans and from 14.5 to 13 percent for non-collateralized loans. Myanmar’s economy has slowed dramatically due to the impacts of COVID-19, with hotels and tourism, and manufacturing industries being hit particularly hard. In the third week of March, the Myanmar government unveiled an initial stimulus package to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy, including 100 billion kyats (nearly US$70 million) worth of loans, eased deadlines for tax payments, and tax exemptions for Myanmar-owned businesses that have been hit by the pandemic.

Philippines Sells $2.35 Billion of Bonds as It Fights Pandemic Yahoo Finance 28th Apr 2020
The Philippines raised $2.35 billion in a bond sale, becoming the latest emerging nation to pay up for funds as governments seek to shield their economies from the coronavirus pandemic. The Southeast Asian nation, which is facing its worst deficit ratio in two decades, issued the securities in two parts. The 10-year notes were priced to yield 180 basis points over Treasuries, up from 110 basis points when it sold a similar note in January of last year. The Philippines expects its budget deficit this year to widen to 5.3% of gross domestic product from about 3.6% in 2019. The projected deficit ratio would be the most since at least 2000, based on Finance Department data. President Rodrigo Duterte said on April 27 the nation is considering a relaxation in some restrictions in place since the middle of March to contain the outbreak. Recent fundraising by Indonesia and Middle Eastern nations indicates a resurgence of investor appetite following a string of central bank steps after last a global sell-off last month, which all but closed the market for developing borrowers. The Philippines central bank has deployed a range of measures including buying government debt directly and in the secondary market to bolster investor confidence.

Another 25bps OPR cut next month appears imminent, say analysts The Malaysian Reserve 27th Apr 2020
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) is expected to slash the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) by at least another 25 basis points (bps) next month, following the uncertain economic outlook in the country due to the Covid-19 outbreak. BNM’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is scheduled to meet on May 5. The central bank has already made two 25bps cuts this year, bringing the benchmark lending rate to 2.5% in March in light of weak global economic and financial conditions. MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd senior analyst Imran Yassin Mohd Yusof predicts another total reduction of 50bps in the OPR this year, which could take place at once in May or over two meetings with a 25bps cut each time. He said a rate cut usually would be able to spur consumer spending, however, the Movement Control Order (MCO), which has been enforced nationwide since March 18, may have prohibited consumers from spending in the traditional manner. Consumer sentiment will also be hit by the economic fallout caused by the MCO.

Central Bank extends regulation compliance deadline to 2023 The Myanmar Times 24th Apr 2020
Banks in Myanmar now have until August 31, 2023 to comply with Notification No. (16/2017) Capital Adequacy Regulation, Notification No. (17/2017) Asset Classification and Provisioning Regulations, Notification No. (18/2017) Large Exposures Regulation, and Notification No. (19/2017) Liquidity Ration Requirement Regulation. The original deadline for compliance was August 31, 2020. The CBM said the deadline has been extended to support the banks as the industry takes steps to respond to an economic slowdown wrought by COVID-19.

BSP waives interbank payment fees amid lockdown 23rd Apr 2020
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has waived the transaction fees imposed on interbank payments to cushion the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 outbreak. BSP Deputy Governor Maria Almasara Cyd Tuaño-Amador has issued a memorandum extending a temporary relief measure on real time fund transfer system transactions among banks and non-banks under the central bank’s Philippine Payment and Settlement System (PhilPaSS). She said that transaction fees for fund transfer instructions with PhilPaSS are waived from April 1 to 30 amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. The regulator said charges incurred prior to the issuance of the memorandum would be reversed. Covered transactions include interbank, peso-leg of dollar trades, peso-leg of government securities trades, Philippine Clearing House Corp. (PCHC) transactions, ATM transactions, and manual processing of interbank transactions. PhilPaSS is a real time gross settlement (RTGS) system owned and operated by the BSP that processes and settles interbank high value payment transactions of banks through the demand deposit accounts of the bank maintained with the central bank. RTGS is a fund transfer system where transfer of money or securities takes place from one bank to another on a real-time and on gross basis. The system has 168 participants including big, mid-sized and small banks as well as non-banks with quasi-banking functions and external institutions. Meanwhile, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno continues to push the use of electronic payments to minimize face-to-face transactions and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

SME Bank’s govt-guaranteed IMTN oversubscribed by 4.5 times The Edge Markets 21st Apr 2020
Malaysia SME Bank’s government-guaranteed Islamic medium-term notes (IMTN) issuance has been oversubscribed by 4.5 times or RM2.2 billion from the actual issuance of RM500 million on April 16. Group president and chief executive officer Aria Putera Ismail said this was an acknowledgement of the bank’s strong financial standing, market presence and its important role in nurturing and developing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “The issuance of the RM500 million sukuk has attracted several financial institutions or asset management companies,” he said in a statement on April 21. Despite the economic uncertainty and the rapid fluctuations of the money market, the negotiations were closed at 23 basis points for five years and 20 basis points for seven years, he said. He added that the IMTN has also been set with a competitive final price of between 3.02% and 3.30%. Meanwhile, Aria said as an agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, the SME Bank has implemented several initiatives in line with the government's economic stimulus plan to help support the viability of the SME sector during the Movement Control Order period and until the end of the Covid-19 crisis in the country.  He said this includes the automatic deferment of financing payment and the offering of a number of financing packages under Bank Negara Malaysia such as the Special Relief Facility as well as the Automation and Digitalisation Facility. As of Dec 31, 2019, SME Bank has approved over RM32 billion in financing to more than 17,200 SME since its inception in 2005.

SSS taps PayMaya for loan disbursements 20th Apr 2020
State pension fund Social Security System (SSS) has tapped digital financial services firm PayMaya for an easier and more convenient way to disburse proceeds from the government’s Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program and its other loan offers to more than three million member-employees affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 public health situation. This means eligible employees under the SBWS program will be able to conveniently receive the cash assistance straight to their PayMaya accounts once disbursements commence in May. The government has set aside a P51 billion fund in wage subsidies for small businesses whose employees were affected by the enhanced community quarantine and unable to work due to suspension of business operations in some industries. Depending on their location, eligible employees will receive P5,000 to P8,000 in subsidies from the government through the SSS. Employers have until April 30 to submit their applications at the SSS website. Eligible employers and their respective employees can now link their PayMaya accounts in the My.SSS online portal, so that they can conveniently receive their wage subsidies when the disbursements start next month. After receiving their wage subsidies or loan proceeds in their PayMaya accounts, the digital financial services firm said employee beneficiaries may immediately use the funds to pay bills, buy airtime load, send money to family, or shop online for basic necessities using their PayMaya app.

Singapore: 0.1% Lending Facility Launched to Support Lending to SMEs Crowdfund Insider 20th Apr 2020
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched a new lending facility to make certain SMEs have access to capital to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The MAS SGD Facility for ESG Loans is in partnership with Enterprise Singapore (ESG). The goal is to lend at an interest rate of 0.1% per annum to eligible financial institutions, to support their lending to SMEs under the ESG Loan Schemes. The ESG Loan Schemes comprise the Enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan (EFS-WCL) and the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP). By providing financial institutions funding at a rate of 0.1% per annum, MAS says the Facility reduces the financial institutions’ cost of funds for loans made under the ESG Loan Schemes. This will help SMEs manage their cash flow better amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, according to MAS. The Facility complements the enhancements to the ESG Loan Schemes announced on 6 April 2020 as part of the Solidarity Budget, where the Government increased its risk-share of loans to 90%. MAS has also launched a S$125 million support package to sustain and strengthen capabilities in the financial services and Fintech sectors amid the current economic slump. There is also a new Training Allowance Grant (TAG) designed to encourage financial instutions and Fintech firms to make use of the downtime in business activity, to train and deepen the capabilities of their employees.

MoF proposes tax exemption 17th Apr 2020
The Ministry of Finance recently has added non-woven fabrics, which are used to produce protective clothing, to the list of goods subject to import tax exemption. The Ministry of Finance proposed the Prime Minister exempt import tax on medical face masks and raw materials for mask production, hand wash and hand sanitiser at the beginning of February in order to help the prevention of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Recently, the ministry has collected opinions from ministries, branches and business associations to complete the draft decree amending and supplementing Decree 134/2016/NĐ-CP on export and import tax and Decree 125/2017/NĐ-CP on the export and import tariff.

Bursa Malaysia grants further extension of time to submit financial statements The Edge Markets 17th Apr 2020
Bursa Malaysia Bhd has granted a further extension of time for listed issuers to submit their financial statements, an additional relief measure to assist and support listed issuers in these challenging times due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The exchange also accorded greater flexibility for fundraising through an increased general mandate limit for the new issue of securities, and provided additional relief to ease compliance to its rules. "These temporary measures are intended to ease compliance by listed issuers and facilitate the fundraising for their working capital requirements in a timely and cost-effective manner," its chief executive officer, Datuk Muhamad Umar Swift said in a statement.

Cambodia’s Central Bank Testing Digital Wallet to Ease Cross-Border Payments Sunriseread 17th Apr 2020
Cambodia’s Central Bank desires to slash the price of cross-border funds and is learning how its in-house digital pockets, the Hyperledger Iroha-powered Bakong, may get the job carried out. The Nationwide Bank of Cambodia (NBC) signed a settlement final week with Malaysia’s Maybank to decide how the banks’ respective digital cost platforms – Bakong and Maybank2u – can work in tandem to cut back usually crippling remittance charges. Any breakthrough can be welcome for residents of the 2 Southeast Asian nations. Although separated solely by the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia’s chief central banker H.E. Chea Serey advised the Khmer Occasions that remittance charges can vary as excessive as 30%. That may change with the brand new partnership, Chea Serey mentioned within the new announcement.

State Securities Commission to launch one-stop information disclosure system 17th Apr 2020
The State Securities Commission (SSC) will soon launch an electronic one-stop information disclosure system for the stock market, news site tinnhanhchungkhoan reported on Thursday. The system will help entities participating in the stock market save time and money when disclosing information and minimise the risk of false disclosures, the SSC said. With the new system, when a business wishes to publicise information, it only needs to send the information to the Việt Nam stock exchange, which acts as a front line in supervising transactions in the market. The system is designed so that the information is simultaneously shared to the public and the SSC for supervision and management.

BSP cuts policy rate to record low Business World 16th Apr 2020
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) fired off another 50-basis-point (bp) cut in policy rates in an off-cycle meeting to bring borrowing costs to record lows in a bid to boost lending to support the economy in the middle of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. This brought the key rate or the overnight reverse repurchase rate to 2.75%. Accordingly, interest rates for the central bank’s overnight deposit and lending facility have been trimmed to 3.25% and 2.25%, respectively. These rates are the lowest on record and also since the BSP shifted to an interest rate corridor in 2016.

Monetary Authority of Singapore Introduces $125 Million Support Package for Fintech Firms and Other Financial Service Providers Crowdfund Insider 9th Apr 2020
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the nation’s central bank and financial regulator, has introduced a $125 million support package, in order to support local financial service providers and Fintech companies, following the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and resulting economic instability. The MAS noted that $90 million of the package will be directed toward assisting banks and Fintech firms with training programs and hiring new staff members. Companies based in Singapore will be given $2,000 each month for each local fresh graduate or worker that they employ or place in talent development programs. This will effectively double the present salary support offered by the nation’s authorities. Firms will also have access to a new Training Allowance Grant (TAG), which is being offered to Singapore’s citizens and permanent residents (PRs). The TAG aims to complement the Jobs Support Scheme, which was introduced via the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets. It offers allowances for enrolling and completing training courses that are accredited by Singapore’s Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF). Local residents will be given $10 per hour if they cover the costs for their own training. Banks and Fintech companies will get $15 per hour if they sponsor training for their employees. Subsidies for various training courses will be increased to 90%, which is up significantly from the previous 50-70%.

Covid-19 Delays Award of Digital Bank Licenses 9th Apr 2020
In a statement on April 9, MAS said the delay would "allow the digital bank license applicants to dedicate their resources and attention towards managing the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses," MAS said. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will extend the digital bank assessment period for the award of digital bank licenses to the second half of the year, owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the disruptions caused by the enhanced safe distancing measures in Singapore.  The regulator originally planned to announce the recipients of the digital bank licenses in June 2020. There are 21 applicants for up to five licenses on offer – two for full digital banks, and three for digital wholesale banks, which has a lower capital commitment and is open to foreign firms. The applicants range from e-commerce firms, technology, and telecommunications companies, t0 fintech and financial institutions.  Earlier this week, Bank Negara Malaysia, the country's central bank, said it would be extending the consultation period for the exposure draft on the licensing framework for the country's digital banking regime to 30 June 2020. The consultation period was previously extended from February to the end of April 2020. According to Fintech News Malaysia, potential applicants include the likes of Axiata, Razer, Grab and Hong Kong-based AMTD Group.

BSP trims smaller lenders’ liquidity ratio requirement Business World 8th Apr 2020
The Central Bank has trimmed the minimum liquidity ratio (MLR) requirement of smaller lenders until the year’s end in a move to boost their stash of money amid the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on the industry. The MLR requirement of standalone thrift, rural and cooperative banks now stands at 16% from the 20% prescribed by the Manual of Regulations for Banks effective until the end of the year, unless revoked by the BSP.

MCO: RM1 interbank ATM cash withdrawal fee waived NST Online 3rd Apr 2020
All Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in the Malaysian Electronic Payment System Sdn Bhd (MEPS) network will waive the RM1 charge for withdrawals. Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the waiver would begin on April 6 until the end of the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

LYHOUR Microfinance Institution Plc. receives Banking License from National Bank of Cambodia Khmer Times 1st Apr 2020
LY-HOUR Micro-finance Institution Plc. is a subsidiary of LYHOURGroup, consists of 8 companies such as LYHOUR Exchange Co., Ltd (1986), LYHOURPawnshop Co., Ltd (2010), Borey Vimean Phnom Penh (2011), Tepi Agro Investment Co., Ltd (2011), LYHOUR Micro-finance Institution Plc. (2012), LYHOUR Leasing Plc. (2015) LYHOUR Paypro Plc. (2016) and LYHOUR Insurance Plc. (2017), has recently received the Commercial Bank License from National Bank of Cambodia to operate banking business and provide widen financial services to the public. The economics’ growth and political stability is the key fundamental in building more confidence from the public and international investors as well as the strength and healthiness in banking system. Through NBC’s 2019 Report revealed that there are 46 Commercial Banks, 15 Specialized Banks, 7 Microfinance Deposit Taking Institutions, 75 Microfinance Institutions and other financial institutions that provide the financial services in the kingdom of Cambodia