ARTICLE: Tech Wire Asia – Digital money is bringing the future of banking to Asia

BY combining cash with mobile technology, fintech is transforming lives, as well as disrupting the financial sectors’ big incumbents.

One such disruptor is Alex Kong, founder of the Hong Kong-based TNG Wallet, a fintech firm that was created in 2012 to provide banking and remittance services for Asia’s unbanked millions. This group constitute 70 percent to 80 percent of the population in developing countries, around 1.5 billion people.

Today TNG has more than 600,000 users in 13 countries and territories and is targeting expansion into new markets. It recently raised US$115 million in a Series A funding round led by Chinese private equity group NewMargin Capital.

At Web Summit, the annual tech conference held in Lisbon last week, Tech Wire Asia caught up with Kong to talk all things fintech.

Servicing the unbanked

Malaysian-born Kong was inspired to start TNG after he moved to Hong Kong ten years ago and couldn’t open a bank account because of his nationality.  He realized millions of people have a similar problem.

In the last 18 months, Kong said TNG has grown more than 500 times because the demand from the unbanked population is so high.

“Every day for these non-banked users is an emergency; their family need money on a daily basis,” Kong said.

“They used to queue up every Sunday at Western Union for hours, fill out the same stupid form and pay the same high charges, but with us they can send money instantly, every day.”

On average TNG’s users are sending US$13 a day to loved ones in different countries. Money transfer to China from Hong Kong amounts to US$16 billion each year, says Kong, so his business has huge room for growth.

Along with remittance, TNG enables its users to pay in shops, withdraw money from post offices or convenience stores, as well as other services. Users don’t need to carry cash or cards. The company makes its money, Kong said, by charging for “financial services” and 1.25 percent to the retailer on shop purchases.

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