As FinTech has become a priority in countries around the world, it still suffers from the universal pain point of talent shortage. There is still a lack of accessibility to the right knowledge that could significantly speed up development in various countries that would benefit greatly from learning from others.
Techsauce Global Podcast Host Chaowarat Yongjiranon talks to Jason Pau, the program lead of 10x1000, about how his philanthropic initiative launched jointly by the International Finance Corporation and Alipay is empowering new talent to power FinTech for future digital economies.
So far a total of 72 learners in Thailand have been certified with the 10x1000 Fintech Foundation Program. The program has also partnered with Thailand Fintech Association and TrueMoney. Local learners have also joined the program through Gobi Partners, ABH (Africa’s Business Heroes) and UNWFP (United Nations World Food Program).
18 years ago, ANT group and Alipay started their journey of innovation and technology. The goal was to solve pain points of users and merchants. Since then, operated by ANT Group, Alipay has become the leading digital payment platform in China, serving millions of users and connecting them with merchants to enable a comprehensive digital lifestyle.
In Southeast Asia, Pau says there has been much work done with local merchants, especially in tourism, hospitality, and retail sectors. Over the years with tourism being a sector in the region, payments are more convenient and seamless for tours as there has been an acceleration of adoption of digital solutions, innovation, and mobile payments.
“Mobile wallet has been the key driver of mobile payments globally.”
Pau says more and more businesses have pivoted to setting up online shops or leveraging e-commerce to sell things globally. At the end of 2020, there were over 2 billion mobile wallets and the number is expected to increase by a huge amount, 70% over the next five years to reach 4.8 billion.
Pau thinks specifically that Asia, as one of the most advanced regions in the world on mobile wallet adoption, will experience hyper growth. This will help a lot of economies, SMEs, and entrepreneurs leapfrog with the use of digital technology. Ultimately there will be more jobs.
Pau says Southeast Asia has come a long way. However, six out of ten Southeast Asian nations remain unbanked or underbanked. SMEs, especially little enterprises are the driving forces for Southeast Asian economies. Pau says according to a 2021 Tech for Good Institute study,
“Over 60% of micro-SMEs are unable to get a financial loan.”
This of course Pau says limits potential growth.
The challenge of overcoming the geographic challenges of the region excites Pau because things are much different to the silk road in the 15th century. Today digital technology offers solutions for Southeast Asia’s challenging geography and large populations. In 2020 Ant Group launched Aliplus to solve global merchant pain points throughout Asia. It allowed users to access cross border mobile payments.
Pau says it is infeasible to build up infrastructure to connect the massive amount of islands in the regions, but digital technology offers an inexpensive solution.
“Can you access a global or regional marketplace and sell your products and logistics and payments done all with leveraging digital technology? That solution was not possible 5-6 years ago. I think today, it definitely is.”
Pau says this not only because consumers and merchants are more aware of the possibilities, but it is because there are more and more vendors. There are more and more suppliers of technology that can get things done. This is why more companies are enhancing their expertises on providing solutions to the people that need it the most.
Pau says it all starts with talent as they are the backbone of enabling innovation. Other than young tech savvy people, there is a need to up-skill older generations. There is a need for education and training that is not only relevant today, but for the next 5-10 years to come.
On the issue of the digital social divide countries are facing, Pau says when there are users, there is generally an economic case for infrastructure to be developed. However, infrastructure is not cheap. China did immense strategic investment in transitioning its country from 3G to 4G and then now to 5G. The same will follow in other countries as long as there is a user base.
Pau says it is not only a government infrastructure question, but a market question. Pau is confident most of the population in Southeast Asia are internet users or will soon be. He says when you get to a place where all you need is a mobile phone and internet connection, the world will open up. It is then that the concept of digital divide can really be tackled.
“COVID-19 has shown that if you are not digitally savvy, you can be left behind, but at the same time, it also shows that digital technology can bring the masses forward. It is especially important for countries that need to leapfrog."
Unlike the west where the population has been steeped in human behavior, it is easier for people to adopt new methods in Southeast Asia. It is easier because they are not accustomed to traditional financial behaviors such as using cheques or credit cards.
Pau says the key is where there are users, there will be infrastructure. The infrastructure costs will go down dramatically in the long term.
There is a lot to share in the emerging industry of FinTech. In 2018, Alipay took the first step forward in being a global citizen. It co-launched with International Finance Corporation (IFC) to open an open global tech training platform. The mission is to train 1,000 emerging talents each year for at least 10 years. With a long term mission, the organization is philanthropic and is not monetized. Pau says it was clear that there has been a digital skill gap globally and Ant Group wanted to tackle this issue by sharing the company’s expertise after operating for over 18 years.
The program offers not only Ant Group know-how, but other leading companies from around the world. This is what makes the program powerful. Pau says the group stepped up its game and built an online platform that is accessible anywhere in the world.
“The key is accessibility.”
10x1000 has fully embraced being online. Users can access the knowledge the platform provides as long as they have an internet connection. Users can hear from top minds in FinTech and learn how to apply that knowledge in their situations. The program is open to a diverse group, whether it be a mom-and-pop entrepreneur or a big corporation.
With the FinTech foundation course receiving 4.7 out of 5 rating last year, the program gained two significant insights.
First, Pau says it is clear that there is a lack of FinTech knowledge nowadays. This reflects the lack of global FinTech knowledge in the marketplace today. If you search for FinTech knowledge and training programs, you generally get a very specific viewpoint. Maybe it could be a western or academic. There really is not a place where top practitioners from around the world can gather and share.
Second, learners are definitely learning at different paces. This is the reason why the program will increase the diversity of lecturers and use cases to share. For example, the program is already adding more African lecturers and languages like French to the platform.
Ultimately participants want:
“I am confident that many across Asia will probably surpass what China, U.S., and Europe has done.”
Pau believes every market needs idols to inspire and innovate.
With over 30 global partners ranging from the United Nations to VC funds, 10x1000 recruits through partners and alumni referrals. The program looks for learners that are passionate about financial inclusion. You do not have to be in the FinTech industry because FinTech really impacts every industry in the digital economy.
It’s not just about theory. Learners will get a curriculum that is not focused on theory, but specific practical cases lectured by CEOs that are leaders in the field of blockchain and AI. They offer ways to leverage technology to solve problems. Right now Pau says there is a lot of excitement about tech, however if you do not have a clear problem to solve, you may not be successful.
It’s about a global community. Once you join the program you will also become a part of a global community that shares. You leapfrog by learning from others within the community. Pau says he has seen an enormous amount of change with alumni that are constantly exchanging notes and sharing solutions. This has been the biggest benefit of 10x1000 as it is a community of alumni that share, exchange, and collaborate.
FinTech today generally speaking is very country specific. Pau says this is due to regulation and different user preferences.
“There is really a lot to learn if you cross pollinate a little bit.”
There are so many hot topics. To be on top of FinTech it is not just about knowledge and application. It is also about being aware of the movements within the industry. Pau says 10x1000 has recently launched a green mini-series this year to give learners the latest in tech on sustainability and the role of green FinTech.
With the goal of reaching learners in 100 countries in the next three years, 10x1000 is excited to reach out more to potential learners. Pau hopes to reach more females and SMEs. Already today it has reached 66 countries and has over 1,000 graduates who get a certificate powered by blockchain from the IFC and Alipay. Those interested find out more about the program at www.10x1000.org.
Towards the end of our talk, Pau reminded Techsauce something quite important. That is:
“If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you walk far, walk together.”