Grab Conversations Symposium: Enabling Mass Flourishing through Fintech

This article captures key takeaways from discussions at the Grab Conversations Symposium: Enabling Mass Flourishing through Fintech, where global industry leaders Lesly Goh, Jaygan Fu, Alison Eskesen, Tilman Ehrbeck, and Reuben Lai shared their perspectives and lessons from building programmes, developing products, as well as fostering partnerships to drive shared prosperity through fintech. It was held on 11 December 2020 during the week of Singapore Fintech Festival 2020. The session was moderated by Ilaria Chan, Group Advisor for Social Impact Investments at Grab.

Collaboration and partnerships are key

The advancement of fintech requires a collaborative approach driven by private and public partnerships. Lesly Goh (Fellow, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Cambridge Judge Business School) suggested that institutional cooperation is key to ensuring robust data sharing and governance. She shared the success of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network MOU by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation and the ASEAN Bankers Association as an example which brought banks and fintech institutions together in an inclusive and collaborative ecosystem. She further advocated for an inclusive environment and workforce within the fintech industry—one where men and women support each other—to ensure equal opportunity for all.

Designing with the consumer in mind

Jaygan Fu (Chief Operating Officer and Chief Commercial Officer, OVO) cautioned against a top-down approach to designing products. He highlighted how an ‘inferiority complex’ may persist in under-banked and unbanked consumers, as micro-moments that occur in the process of applying for a bank account, such as long queues at the bank and large amounts of paperwork, often discourage them from pursuing financial mobility. Jaygan also described how selling a point-of-sale system to a small business owner, whose key concern is cash flow instead of profit-and-cost, would not meet their bread-and-butter needs. To design with the consumer in mind, he shared OVO’s four principles for success:

  1. Distribution: How do we ensure what we do reaches the masses?
  2. Instant gratification: There should be no delay or doubt in the user experience.
  3. Liquidity: How do we allow liquidity across the platform?
  4. Low friction, high frequency: How do we ensure we cater to different user segments?

Solving financial access at the macro level

To drive social impact on a macro level, Alison Eskesen (Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth) shared how one can leverage a company’s expertise, data, technology and customer relationships to make a difference at scale. One of Mastercard’s macro initiatives is education: preparing young girls to become next-generation fintech talents by keeping them on relevant career paths, and helping them attain global cybersecurity certifications. In India, Mastercard also produced “Booty Money”, an animated series which would reach a larger audience through advertising technology, and provide them with bite-sized, actionable financial knowledge.

‘Fair Finance’ in regulations and security

Regulations are critical in creating accountability and trust with customers. Tilman Ehrbeck, (Managing Partner, Flourish Ventures) outlined the principles of ‘Fair Finance’ in creating regulatory frameworks, namely:

  1. Finance must serve the needs of real people.
  2. Business and revenue models need to be aligned with customers’ interests, with no hidden fees.
  3. People should have knowledge and agency over how their data is being used.
  4. Digital infrastructure must be open and low-cost—available to everyone.
  5. It should be regulated and supervised in a digitally native manner.

These principles would help to ensure the even distribution of opportunity and economic security.

Enabling mass flourishing through fintech

Addressing the needs of over 70% of Southeast Asians underserved by traditional banks is no mean feat. Reuben Lai (Senior Managing Director, Grab Financial Group) emphasised the importance of learning from one another in areas of financial inclusion gaps to find opportunities for collaboration. He highlighted Grab’s three-pronged approach of improving digital inclusion and literacy, empowering micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses, and building future-ready workforces; adding that Grab will continue to shape the discussion on fintech, and its promise for good. The theme ‘flourish’ accurately captures the potential of this industry—not as a means to survival, but building a thriving future for the underserved at scale. Closing the last mile in financial services is important in building an inclusive digital economy that leaves no one behind.

To watch the full sessions, please refer to the links below:

Komsan Chiyadis

GrabFood delivery-partner, Thailand

Komsan Chiyadis

GrabFood delivery-partner, Thailand

COVID-19 has dealt an unprecedented blow to the tourism industry, affecting the livelihoods of millions of workers. One of them was Komsan, an assistant chef in a luxury hotel based in the Srinakarin area.

As the number of tourists at the hotel plunged, he decided to sign up as a GrabFood delivery-partner to earn an alternative income. Soon after, the hotel ceased operations.

Komsan has viewed this change through an optimistic lens, calling it the perfect opportunity for him to embark on a fresh journey after his previous job. Aside from GrabFood deliveries, he now also picks up GrabExpress jobs. It can get tiring, having to shuttle between different locations, but Komsan finds it exciting. And mostly, he’s glad to get his income back on track.