The year 2021 was when most people realized the COVID-19 pandemic was going to shape our future.
The previous year it was easy to feel like we were just waiting out the coronavirus. This year new ways of working, new realities about travel, supply-chain disruptions, and the return of inflation – all fallout from the pandemic – brought home the uncomfortable truth: we aren’t returning to 2019.
Humans are good at adapting, though, and for those lucky enough to be in digital industries and in finance, 2021 has been a stellar year. Here are the biggest trends that shaped Asia’s fintech industry.
1. It’s raining unicorns
Capital has never been more available and ready to invest in startups. CB Insights reported this year saw $91.5 billion invested by venture capital into fintech, doubling last year’s total. Fintech sucked up one in every five VC bucks.
VCs prosper by pushing their portfolio companies into further rounds at ever-greater valuations. In such a capital-lush environment, this has helped the region create unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion or more) at record speed: India and Southeast Asia both added around 41 and 30 unicorns respectively, depending on who’s counting.
Most of these companies are helping build the internet economy. Consumer e-commerce, already established in China, is now permeating the rest of the region.
Whether these platforms are for shopping, gaming, education, healthcare, or other services, they all are embedding payments and financial services. Fintechs that made unicorn status this year include (in order of valuation):
- Toss (Korea), digital bank, $7.5 billion
- OfBusiness (India), SME financing and procurement, $5.0 billion
- Upstox (India), wealthtech, $3.4 billion
- Five Star Business Finance (India), business loans, $3.0 billion
- BharatPe (India), merchant payments, $2.9 billion
- OVO (Indonesia), digital wallet, $2.9 billion
- CRED (India), credit card payments, $2.2 billion
- Advance Intelligence Group (Singapore), buy-now pay-later, AI, $2.0 billion
- Mynt (Philippines), business solutions, remittances, loans, $2.0 billion
- Digit (India), insurtech, $1.9 billion
- Ascend Money (Thailand), lending and wealth, $1.5 billion
- Chargebee (India), subscriptions billing and revenue, $1.4 billion
- Acko General Insurance (India), insurtech, $1.1 billion
- Akulaku (Indonesia), BNPL etc for SMEs, $1.1 billion
- CoinDCX (India), cryptocurrency, $1.1 billion
- Amber Group (Hong Kong), crypto brokerage, $1.0 billion
- Groww (India), robo-advisor, $1.0 billion
- Matrixport (Singapore), digital assets, crypto, $1.0 billion
- Nium (Singapore), cross-border payments, cards, $1.0 billion
- Slice (India), consumer finance, $1.0 billion
- VNLife (Vietnam), fintech and ecommerce, $1.0 billion
- VNPAY (Vietnam), electronic payments, $1.0 billion
- Xendit (Indonesia), business payments, $1.0 billion
- XTransfer (China), SME cross-border payments, $1.0 billion