From cable television and telecom to content-creation and coffee, True Corporation is one of the largest and most far-reaching business organizations in Thailand. True’s influence extends even into the payment business, with True Money – the corporation’s financial technology subsidiary – continuing to become more and more diverse and versatile as the years go by, offering easy payment and financial management tools to consumers of all levels of income.

Since 2014, True Money has been spun off from the main corporation to form part of Ascend Corp, a re-organization of True Corp’s e-commerce subsidiaries now owned by C.P. Group. Today, True Money holds licenses to operate e-money transactions in almost every country in SEA, serving digital consumers with their mobile wallet applications while also catering to the large ‘under-banked’ population in SEA, who must still rely on physical interactions when it comes to managing their money and payments.

Over 60% of consumers in SEA do not have a bank account, despite over 60% smartphone penetration and a population that skews young (over 70% under 40 years old). This poses a challenge for e-payment service providers in the region, as the lack of a bank account means they are unable to access a large swathe of digital money services.

Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Corp, took to the Techsauce Global Summit 2017's main stage to speak about the challenges faced by his company in SEA, and the solutions that allowed True Money to find success as an e-payment brand in a largely cash-reliant market.

According to Punnamas, one of the main reasons True Money has succeeded in the SEA market is thanks to physical payment stations (such as the 7-11 ‘Counter Service’ options in Thailand), which are manned by specially trained ‘agents’ who perform the same transactions available on the True Wallet mobile app in a physical manner.

Despite a combined population of over 620 million people, as well as being a burgeoning digital hub, SEA still consists largely of extremely low-income consumers. Over 60% of consumers in SEA do not have a bank account, despite over 60% smartphone penetration and a population that skews young (over 70% under 40 years old). This poses a challenge for e-payment service providers in the region, as the lack of a bank account means they are unable to access a large swathe of digital money services.

“At Ascend Group our mission is to provide better financial services that lead to a better life,” began Punnamas, who goes on to express his belief that financial services like banking, investments, and insurance play a large part in expanding the horizons of low-income consumers.

“Many in SEA living in rural areas have no easy access to banks, and as such don’t even have a savings account, let alone any kind of life insurance, investment opportunities, or the chance to take bank loans. They live in a lot of risk.”

In addition to the lack of bank accounts, Punnamas also highlights another problem, which is the lack of trust among consumers in digital mobile banking.

“Many people assume that because SEA consumers are mostly younger and tech-savvy means that they will adopt mobile banking very quickly, but that is only partially true. Even among relatively higher-income consumers, mobile banking is still used quite sparingly due to a lack of trust in financial institutions.”

However, while these factors work to create a difficult challenge for Fintech businesses, it also creates opportunities for innovative solutions. While currently offering both online and offline payment methods for consumers across SEA, True Money also aims to provide additional services in the near future, like money lending, investment, and even insurance, to give the ‘unbanked’ population a chance to access these services as well.

According to Punnamas, one of the main reasons True Money has succeeded in the SEA market is thanks to physical payment stations (such as the 7-11 ‘Counter Service’ options in Thailand), which are manned by specially trained ‘agents’ who perform the same transactions available on the True Wallet mobile app in a physical manner, giving those without the tech know-how or bank account to utilize digital payment options a way to easily access financial services.

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