Financial technology (fintech) refers to computer or other software programs that make banking and financial services easier, more accessible, more user-friendly, often cheaper than traditional banks, and is ultimately taking the world by storm. With online and real-time payments, the payments landscape has been revolutionized. Also, with a more demanding public, there’s an increased drive to more ease and convenience when it comes to online services, be it online shopping or banking, in essence, usurping the traditionality of banks and lending institutions, competing with them for a share in the market.
But what is the case when it comes to fintechs in Asia? And what is the situation regarding foreign fintechs seeking to enter the Asian market? What types of challenges will they face? Are these insurmountable or can they be overcome? What about B2C and B2B fintech solutions? Let’s take a look at these questions in more detail.
According to Bloomberg, China is one of the top countries with the highest rate of fintech adoption on the Asian continent, at around 69% of regular fintech users as a share of adults who are active online. Meanwhile, other research points to the fact that of the 400 million adults in Southeast Asia, just over one quarter are fully banked and have full access to financial services, whereas nearly 200 million were completely underserved and do not own a bank account. This creates ample opportunity for fintechs to enter the B2C space. But there are some challenges involved. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Effective and clear communication
For a foreign fintech company entering the Asian market, effective and clear communication are a must. Marketing and content-related strategy that works in the West could have the opposite effect in Asia, mainly due to language differences. This is why accurate Asian languages translation is so crucial. Communication to the Asian market must take into account cultural intricacies as well as different dialects within countries (China, for example, has over 200 sub-languages or dialects on its own).
The product offering is another area of consideration which a foreign fintech company should consider working on as they seek to enter the Asian market. What might seem user-friendly to someone in Singapore, could mean a difficult process for someone in Indonesia. After all, apart from the population and geographical size, and despite their close proximity to each other, these countries have vastly different social and cultural structures that must be taken into account. It’s not only the user experience (UX) that’s crucial. It’s also offering a service that meets needs. Remittances and payments (whether internal or cross-border) might be an area worth exploring. Payment offerings which are made available through Alipay, WeChat Pay and Paytm are gaining increased popularity in China and India, and are becoming more trusted than mainstream banking.
The key aspect is to serve the underserved market by adjusting the product offering to meet local needs. But how can this be done without effective translation services for fintech? Even a mobile app offering or a website will need to be tailor-made to fit the needs of the particular local market. This is why services in Asian languages translation are so vital.
Highly segmented markets
Another critical factor for a foreign fintech company to consider when entering the Asian market is the fact that the markets are highly segmented. From a tech-savvy younger population to an older generation, which places their trust in traditional banking, to other segments of the population which remain completely unbanked or disenfranchised, it is critical to look at the target consumer who will be the focus of the fintech’s offering. Again, Asian language and translation services will be important for communicating the essence of the marketing campaign and the ultimate unique selling point of the product being promoted.
Fintech companies don’t operate in isolation. In fact, they often cooperate with banks and other financial institutions, whether to share data, technology, software, or other assets to bring their service to the general public. However, operating in an Asian B2B environment has its challenges, as well.
A fintech company in France seeking to expand to the rest of Europe has ample opportunity to do so due to standardized legislation and regulations as a result of the structure of the European Union. Moreover, many countries now have “innovation hubs” or “sandboxes”, which exempt some fintechs from regulatory restrictions during the testing phase of certain products. This is not the case with fintechs operating in Asia or foreign fintechs seeking to enter the Asian market. There is no overarching legislation governing the rules of the game. In fact, in each of the 48 countries in Asia, the regulations and legal landscapes are vastly different. Some are prohibitive and unwelcoming, while others are more friendly towards foreign start-ups seeking to get a share of the financial Asian pie. Navigating the legal landscape will require effective communication with lawyers, government officials, municipalities, and other players in the field, and this would not be possible without effective Asian languages translation.
Language and culture
There are more than 4.3 billion people speaking nearly 2300 languages on the Asian continent. Apart from the language barriers, with some of the most difficult languages in the world, there are significant cultural differences in the different countries in Asia. From bowing politely to greet a superior or colleague, to accepting a business card with enthusiasm and respect, the knowledge of a culture can help make or break deals. This is why a proficient Asian languages translator is crucial in helping a fintech company navigate through the complex cultural and linguistic landscape.
Time and resources
Fintechs seeking to enter the Asian market have large incentives to do so due to the financially attractive options available. For example, digital payments are expected to move past US$1 trillion by 2025, whereas the market for e-wallets is expected to grow even faster, rising from US$22 billion in 2019, to US$114 billion by 2025. However, the challenges that arise from these opportunities are related to limited time and resources. For example, given the regulatory frameworks in Asian countries, how quickly can they enter the market? What types of resources will be needed to penetrate such markets? Some suggest making use of local management and teams in order to have a better understanding of the cultural and legal space that the fintechs will want to operate in. Again, having an effective Asian languages translation partner could be an important solution to this obstacle.
A fintech company considering moving or starting operations in Asia has a lot of factors to consider before embarking on what will ultimately be a financially lucrative enterprise. From B2C to B2B considerations, it’s critical to have an Asian language partner to help address segmented, culturally diverse markets with a high potential for financial growth.